D.E.W. Animal Kingdom & Sanctuary, the Mt. Vernon facility that rehabilitates tigers, bears, leopards, monkeys and other wild animals, will be the subject of a new reality TV series, “Yankee Jungle,” set to premiere on Animal Planet at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 29.
“Yankee Jungle,” starring D.E.W. owners Bob and Julie Miner, will show what life is like on a rural Maine animal sanctuary. The Miners have owned and operated the non-profit D.E.W. from their Kennebec County property since 1980, starting with farm animals before moving onto exotic creatures rescued from zoos and from individuals. Some of the more than 200 animals on the farm include lions, tigers, leopards, kangaroos, camels, wolves, tortoises and an array of birds and monkeys, many of whom are old, disabled or unwanted. They call their operation an “innovative farm with alternative livestock.”
The Miners were also the subject of a documentary, “Wild Home,” detailing Bob Miner’s past as a Vietnam veteran struggling with health problems, and how the animals helped him to recover. “Wild Home” premiered at the Camden International Film Festival in September 2014.
The South Portland-based production company Lone Wolf Media, producer of the series, has been working on “Yankee Jungle” for nearly three years.
“Kirk Wolfinger, who is the president of Lone Wolf, happened upon [the Miners] about three years ago,” said Jed Rauscher, executive producer of the series. “It’s such a one of a kind place they have out there and they are truly extraordinary people. It was a long process to put together the materials and pitch the network, but eventually, we did a development deal with Animal Planet, and they greenlit three episodes… we’re hoping to do a full season, if these initial shows do well.”
Also featured on the show will be actress and comedian Birdie “Karmo” Sanders, better known to Mainers as the Marden Lady, and Maine comedian Jason Hodgdon, a.k.a. Krazy Jake, who will both provide some comic relief. D.E.W. employees Ella and Steve round out the cast of characters. The other two episodes will air at 9 p.m. on Dec. 6 and Dec. 13.
Rauscher said “Yankee Jungle” isn’t a reality series in the vein of “Duck Dynasty” or other highly produced series. He refers to his show as a docu-series.
“We followed them and their friends and family and employees, and we really got a taste of what they are all about,” said Rauscher. “People see reality shows and think it’s just another one of the same, but ours is really different.”