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Deets Pickett, gorilla hunter

The Story

Thrash as he might, a full-grown gorilla is no match for Deets Pickett and his tranquilizer gun. With a team of hired local men and the tools of his trade, Pickett makes a living by capturing gorillas and chimpanzees in Africa and selling them to zoos. Pickett, a veterinarian, began his gorilla-hunting career when he set out to learn why captive gorillas had such dismal survival rates. Gorillas can easily contract fatal human diseases, but Pickett discovered how to keep them alive. In this CBC Radio interview from 1963, Pickett says a male gorilla in good shape can fetch up to $30,000 (over $234,000 in 2015 dollars).

Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: July 3, 1964
Guest: Deets Pickett
Host: Bill McNeil
Reporter: Dan Price
Duration: 4:26

Did You know?

• In the International Zoo News for Aug.-Oct. 1960, Dr. Deets Pickett advertised his services. "Now specializing in the capture and collection of gorillas, elephants, chimpanzees, hippopotamus," read the ad, which also described Pickett's qualifications: "Twenty-five years experience in sanitation, teaching and research in animal diseases, including special research in diseases of gorillas."

• According to the ad, Pickett had headquarters in the United States and Cameroon and guaranteed live delivery anywhere in the world.

• The first zoo in Canada to exhibit a gorilla was the Granby Zoo in Quebec. The zoo's male silverback gorilla, Mumba, was captured in Cameroon and came to Canada in 1961 at age 15 months. Despite the zoo's best efforts, Mumba never sired any offspring, possibly because he lived with humans for the first 30 months of his life. He died in 2008 at age 48, long past the average 40-year life expectancy for a gorilla.




Year of the Gorilla more