Aquarium to fete TV animal advocate Jeff Corwin

Conservationist and television host Jeff Corwin (top right) helps release a huge freshwater stingray that might have been the biggest ever caught.

Just one of the unusual things about conservationist Jeff Corwin is his Army certification as an advanced field medical specialist. One off-the-wall thing about him is how he put it to use — to keep from bleeding to death in the woods after he inadvertently severed an artery in his wrist with his own knife.

Corwin, 47, who lives on an island in southeastern Massachusetts, will be the recipient of this year’s Environmental Stewardship Award from the South Carolina Aquarium, and will speak at the aquarium’s Conservation Gala on April 24.

While he’s in town, he will film the aquarium’s work rehabilitating injured sea turtles for an episode of Ocean Mysteries he expects to air on ABC in September.

Corwin is the television host advocate for the most threatened species in the world, maybe best known for his work on the Animal Planet and Discovery networks. He gets out there. Last month, he was part of a team that corralled a 700-plus pound freshwater stingray in Thailand, possibly the largest freshwater creature ever caught.

“Jeff Corwin represents a new generation of wildlife biologists who can speak directly to today’s children,” said Kevin Mills, aquarium president. “He has a real gift for making conservation fun and accessible, which is one of the goals of the aquarium. We’re excited to have Jeff’s team here to film the inspiring work we do in our Sea Turtle Hospital. The thought that the episode will reach a new audience of millions is deeply gratifying.”

Corwin views that as his mission, he said in a recent interview. He has an “interest and a passion” for engaging people in conservation issues.

At the gala, “I will take the chance to engage the audience on the challenges we face in the 21st century. The ocean is finite, and we’re learning it the hard way,” he said.

The hard way is how he ended up driving himself out of the deep woods in Massachusetts, clamping a hand on his wrist, blood spurting on the windshield, to reach the nearest medical care. Incongruously, it was in the town where he grew up, and everybody knows him.

He had been trying to cut free some plastic litter in the woods, and let his guard slip a moment. He slit with knife blade toward himself, and went right through the wrist when the plastic popped free. He laughs now to remember rushing into the police station, where the officers gave him the same look they gave him when he showed up as a younger man — what’s he done now.

Corwin also made an emergency call to his wife, who took it better than you’d expect. Natalia Corwin once took a call from the ambassador to Belize asking her where he should send the body bag.

In the emergency room, Corwin filmed the repair job, he said, a video he frankly admits no one but him will watch.

“Having a little bit of skill and comfort (from the field medical training), I knew what was going on and that allowed me to manage,” he said.

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