Antin adventures with animals on ‘Evan Goes Wild’

Veterinarian and wildlife conservationist Evan Antin stars in his own TV show, “Evan Goes Wild,” airing on Animal Planet. (Handout/TNS)
Veterinarian and wildlife conservationist Evan Antin stars in his own TV show, “Evan Goes Wild,” airing on Animal Planet. (Handout/TNS)

Some guys’ bucket lists might include scaling the Alps, winning the exacta or landing a 200-pound marlin. But Evan Antin has a different plan. His dream is to swim with a great white shark without a cage and schmooze with a king cobra in the wild.

While that might not sound appealing to most, Antin is on his way to fulfilling his goal. As a veterinarian and a lifelong devotee of animal rescue and conservation, he’s hosting his first TV series, “Evan Goes Wild,” on Animal Planet.

The show indulges both his passions: wild animals and exotic locals. On the series Antin splashes with humpback whales in Moorea, smiles at crocodiles in Central America and spelunks with fruit bats in the Philippines.

“The show, it’s been something I’ve been wanting to do for many years since before vet school, because I love working with wild life and promoting conservation awareness and doing that work around the world,” says Antin.

“And I would volunteer before I was a vet, working with wildlife rescues long before I was a vet — then during vet school and after,” he says.

Antin, 34, grew up in Kansas City and was always infatuated with animals. He had his first pet when he was only 2 years old, a rabbit named Paco. “In college I started taking courses in biology and evolutionary biology and genetics and ecology and started really loving to learn,” he says.

“And I always knew animals were going to be a big part of my life — whether it was personal life or professional, or both.

“And I’ve also always had an appreciation and fascination with medicine and surgery. And I like working with my hands, so once I was taking those courses, I realized this is my calling. This is the clear path for me and where I’m going to succeed the most and be the happiest. So following that, I never looked back.”

Still, it did not go exactly as he planned. The first time Antin applied to vet school at the University of Colorado at Boulder, he was rejected.

“They said, ‘You need more animal experience. Your grades are good and your test scores are good, but we need to see more experience.’ I said, ‘I’ll get more.’ And I did. It took one year.”

While studying, Antin managed to spend a semester in Australia and another in Tanzania. “Those times I applied for tons of scholarships. To be honest, they were up for grabs almost. I was very lucky. I got a lot of funding and scholarships for both those semesters and I’ve traveled a ton since then. Most of the places I go were where the wildlife I’m looking for are, are the countries where our currency is in favor in terms of what’s affordable over there,” he says.

“It was super cheap, so it was just about finding enough money and enough time. When those two things came together, I was out the door.”

During his fourth year at the university, he was out the door to far-off California. “I went to 20 different vet hospitals between L.A. and San Diego and got my foot in the door wherever I could,” he recalls.

“And these were all big hospitals that saw exotic animals as well as dogs and cats, somewhere I eventually would want to work,” says Antin.

“I hit it off with Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital. We had a great visit, then they asked me to come back for an interview. And that went really well, and my boss and I are like bros. And I’ve been there ever since.”

He could’ve stayed there splinting broken bones and removing cysts full time, but Antin was approached by a TV producer. A blurb in People Magazine dubbed him the “sexiest beast charmer” or maybe it was his guest appearances on several TV shows that drew the producer’s attention, says Antin.

“We met years ago and talked about doing a show, then he came back to me and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this opportunity. I think we can pull this off. I think Animal Planet’s onboard. Let’s chat with them, let’s get them excited.’ And that’s what we did, and they gave us the green light and we went and filmed.”

Antin’s fiancée, Nathalie Basha, whom he describes as an “online journalist,” goes along with his devotion to animals. “She has been around venomous snakes. I’ve put her on the back of 8-foot alligators, she’s been in the jungle,” he says. “The only thing she doesn’t like is walking through a spider web, but she’s otherwise OK with spiders. She’s a pretty mellow chick.”

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