Pets

The world's sexiest vet on his new wildlife TV show, misunderstood animals and his special Kiwi connection

Dr Evan Antin has traveled the world filming all sorts of wild animals (and experiencing all sorts of close calls) to bring the world his new TV show, Evan Goes Wild.

By Karyn Henger
You don't get up close and personal with animals - whether they're wild or not - without getting bitten a few times.
And the world's sexiest vet, as voted by People magazine, Dr Evan Antin, has his fair share of animal bite stories.
But more on that later. First and foremost, today he's on the phone from Los Angeles with me to talk about his new TV show, Evan Goes Wild.
In case you haven't heard of Evan, he's an LA-based vet who has a passion for all wildlife and in his first television series, which premiers on Sky's Animal Planet from September, he takes viewers on his global adventures as he chases his wildlife bucket list.
We see him swimming alongside humpback whales in Tahiti, exploring caves with bats and snakes in the Philippines, tangling with crocs in the Yucatan, diving with sharks in the South Pacific, running away from rhinos in Kenya, and rushing to the aid of a Macaque monkey in need of help in Sri Lanka.
Of his experience swimming with humpback whales he says it was actually his first time, and when one of those magnificent creatures began powering towards him to surface for a breath of air he had to "paddle for my life" to get out of her way.
"That blew my mind," he says. "They're so big and gentle, and she wasn't doing anything aggressive. She was just doing what she does every day, but when you're looking at a 40 foot animal that weighs 10 or 15 tonnes, you could get really hurt."
Evan is still buzzing from his adventures filming the show - animals are his world - but before we carry on any further I have to ask him how he feels about being known as the world's sexiest vet.
"It's a compliment, for sure," he laughs. "It's not something I was necessarily working for over the years but... it's been helpful with my career and getting more outreach and promoting education about animals and wildlife conservation and veterinary matters."
He suddenly went viral in 2016, jumping from 10,000 followers to 222,000 in a week and from there it's "just grown".
"It was crazy, I wasn't expecting that," he says.
Naturally, Evan cares a lot about the welfare of all animals - domestic and wild - but in particular the more misunderstood species such as snakes, crocodiles and sharks.
"I don't know of one other animal that people have such an innate, irrational fear of," he says of snakes.
"It's almost instinctual. Even in places where snakes are native the locals are very frightened of them. But snakes are more afraid of humans than the other way around - and what people don't realise is that snakes would much prefer to hide from people and avoid confrontation. If you give them their space, it's very rare for most species to be aggressive and attack."
He claims sharks get a bad rap too.
"So many people think that sharks want to kill them and eat them, yet sharks are actually very particular with their diet. They won't eat just anything they find."
In actual fact, sharks rarely attack people.
"It's only a very few that are too bold and go into areas where people are, trying to find new food sources. But if you look at things statistically, an average of five to six people get killed by sharks each year round the entire world. More people are killed being bitten by humans in the city of New York than there are shark attacks around the world."
He is especially keen to get that message out there because "right now things aren't going well for sharks."
He cites the practice of finning - killing sharks for their fins, which are considered a delicacy in restaurants.
"Those fisherman are killing 70 million sharks a year. That's not sustainable. We're going to lose our sharks pretty soon."
Crocodiles, he refers to as "modern-day dinosaurs"
"They are beautiful. Actually, reptiles really get me excited," he divulges.
During a recent visit to New Zealand he met and fell in love with the tuatara, which is native to New Zealand.
"They have such a unique look, and people confuse them with the lizard but their skin is fascinating, it's really unlike any other reptile or animal I've ever touched," he says.
"They're very beautiful animals. They look like smoky little dragons."
Evan was also rendered spellbound by our glow worm caves in Waitomo.
"That was one of the coolest wildlife moments I've ever experienced," he says.
Diving off the Poor Knights Islands he got to encounter the Wobbegong shark and he explored much of Queenstown, Milford Sound and other parts of our coastline and natural features.
It was an encounter with a sand monitor (a type of reptile) during a road trip through Western Australia many years ago that actually inspired him to travel the world observing wild animals, and ultimately create a TV show.
"I was ecstatic. I recorded myself talking about it, sitting there in the outback and that was super special for me."
Of the show he has "every episode has something epic and crazy".
The question is left begging, though, with all of these encounters with wild animals, how often has he ended up being bitten?
"When you're a veterinarian you're going to get bit here and there," he reveals. "I've been bitten by most animals.
"Of course you try to be responsible and respectful of what these animals are capable of but you're inevitably putting yourself at risk."
While working on an anaesthetised jaguar she unexpectedly began waking up before his work was done.
"All of a sudden it went from a mellow little thing to 'this could get really bad really fast'," he recalls, "so we had to just stop everything right there and put her back in her enclosure.
"A similar thing happened with a bear in Peru when I was cleaning his teeth.
"He's opening and closing his mouth and my hand's in his mouth and I just want to clean his last few teeth, but it's a thin line. How far do you go before this gets way too risky? But he had already had more sedative than we'd wanted to give him. He was really resistant that day, so we couldn't give him any more."
Evan had to leave the last few teeth.
In Africa during filming Evan and his camera crew were rushed by a rhino.
"I think he just wanted to scare us, but he came at us out of the bushes and the whole crew had to jump into the truck at the same time. Man, he gave us a scare.
"When you work with wildlife like that you've got to keep your wits about you, keep your eyes on a swivel, always be prepared for the worst," he concedes.
"But you know what you're getting yourself into and you've got to have respect for these animals."
Evan Goes Wild is on Sky's Animal Planet on Saturdays, 9.30pm.