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Bob Poole Comes Out of the Wild into the Cities for National Geographic Live
Thursday, August 25, 2022


Bob Poole is accustomed to spending his working hours in the wilds of Africa shooting cheetahs and water buffalo from behind concrete bunkers set up at waterholes or from custom-built tank-like Jeeps equipped with cranes for specialized cameras.

But six years ago, the National Geographic photographer found himself speaking about his work filming the world’s fastest land mammals and other wildlife in front of crowds in the Sydney Opera House and the Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.

“I go on stage at big concert halls in Chicago, San Francisco and Melbourne for 70 minutes to tell my story and show some slides and short video clips as part of the National Geographic Live Speaker Series. And it’s amazing how many people turn up. I spoke at Devereaux Hall for three nights in a row and 2,400 people showed up. It ‘s crazy. But the audience gets a kick out of it,” said Poole, who lives in Ketchum with his wife Gina when not at the office in the wilds of Africa.

Bob Poole will tell his story for the hometown crowd on Friday when the National Geographic Live Speaker Series comes to Ketchum for three presentations.

  • The first—“Nature Roars Back”--will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, at The Argyros and will include Poole’s secrets for filming lions, crocodiles, elephants and more.
  • The second—“Social By Nature”--will start at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27. It will feature biologist-turned photographer Ronan Donovan as he talks about the similarities humans share with other social mammals in the animal kingdom, including chimpanzees, wolves, gorillas and bears, and what we can learn from them.

    Donovan, who lives in Bozeman, spent a year living inside Yellowstone National Park documenting the life of wild wolves. He’s also hiked volcanoes to photograph mountain gorillas and he’s documented the human-chimpanzee conflict in Africa.

    Tickets for each presentation start at $20 and are available at A combo show-and-post-show reception meet-and-greet with the speaker costs $80.

  • There also will be a free roundtable discussion featuring Poole and Donovan with an opportunity for questions and answers at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27.

“With a little over 300 seats, this is one of the smallest venues we ever speak in—we normally have 800 to a thousand seats,” said Poole. “I’m really excited to be back, for people to get a chance to hear my story. And I’m looking forward to hearing Ronan Donovan, who is a friend of mine, since I’ve never had the opportunity to attend someone else’s National Geographic Live Speaker presentation.”

Poole grew up in Kenya where his father worked in the Peace Corps. He got his start filming wildlife at 17 when his father got him a summer job on a wildlife reserve and a National Geographic film crew took him under their wing.

He moved to Sun Valley about 40 years ago to work with Jim Dutcher on a film about the Sawtooth wolf pack. He’s won a number of awards, including an Emmy, for projects for PBS, BBC and National Geographic.

Poole will talk about his childhood and the eight years he spent documenting the rebirth of Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park during Friday’s presentation. Gorongosa National Park, considered a garden of Eden by many, was nearly devastated by civil war, its lions and elephants nearly rendered extinct by poachers.

But Sun Valley philanthropist Greg Carr went there in 2006 to see how he could help turn things around. And Poole joined him in 2008 filming the revitalization of the park over the next eight years as rangers and scientists, including his sister--world renowned elephant researcher Joyce Poole—joined hands on arguably the biggest conservation project on the planet.

“When I arrived, Greg flew me around by helicopter and you could hardly see any animals,” Poole recounted. “Soldiers had eaten most of the wildlife during the civil war. And, when the war was over, nobody was there to protect what was left so wildlife was nearly poached out of existence.”

War broke out again while Poole was there. But recovery, which engaged the local people, continued.

“It had been a national park that was given up for dead—a place that was roadless and lawless and where people poached anything that moved. And now it’s become a huge environmental success story, a model for other places in the world. It’s a place where we learned that the wild places we’ve broken can be put back together.”

Poole still finds it amusing that someone who has spent so much of his life out of sight of people now finds himself speaking in front of so many people.

“I presented the talk first in National Geographic’s auditorium of 300 and they liked it so well they thought we should take it on the road,” he recounted. “The first public venue was a theater in Calgary that seats 2,600 and I was like: How can I get out in front of all these people? But they’re always sold-out events and people love it. It’s a high-profile event around the world.”

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