A ‘Spring’ in Animal Planet’s step

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PASADENA, Callif. — This spring, Animal Planet will make it easy to get your fill of cute baby animals.

The cable channel will premiere “Spring Watch USA” in April preceded by “Saving Grace” in March, both with unique on-air and online content to encourage audience interaction with the programs and the world outside.

“Spring Watch” will be a six-week, almost real-time event that follows Animal Planet’s Jeff Corwin, Vanessa Garnick, Philippe Cousteau and David Mizejewski as they witness nature usher in a new season of life, migration and courtship across the country.

Each of the one-hour episodes of the show, which kicks off April 14 at 8 p.m., will be filmed just one week before each broadcast week to capture spring as it unfolds, whether it’s bears emerging from hibernation, the daily survival of endangered species or fuzzy critters being born.

Corwin and Garnick will act as the informational hosts, reporting from South Carolina’s Kiawah Island, a habitat rich and diverse with a variety of animals. Cousteau and Mizejewski will be the field correspondents. Animal Planet, along with The National Wildlife Federation, will also create an online community (at AnimalPlanet.com and nwf.com) that includes video blogs, a message board, bird-watching guides and an interactive map showing coordinates of where people have seen birds, monarch butterflies or frog eggs.

Spring is a time of wonder and discovery, and at Wednesday’s press tour in Pasadena, Corwin shared a personal memory of a profound moment when he witnessed an animal birth.

“We were filming off California and actually filming elephant seals coming into the world,” he tells Zap2it.com. “It was extraordinary to see these half-ton creatures give birth to these animals that come in at 70 pounds, and within a month, they weight 250 pounds and then have to take on the ocean and take on great white sharks.

“All these stories … are part of “Spring Watch.’ Whether it’s an elephant seal or an otter story for the Pacific, Philippe is there to tell it,” he adds. “Whether it’s a vernal pond with frogs and painted turtles, David is there. Vanessa and I, we’re there at Kiawah amongst rookeries of birds and alligators, so we can really bring this amazing arc of wildlife to the viewers. It’s going to be a most extraordinary moment.”

But before viewers gear up for “Spring Watch,” they can catch the individual story of a rescued baby otter on “Saving Grace,” a series of five-minute Webisode updates on her progress bookended by two 30-minute on-air specials.

“Grace” follows Philippa Forrester and wildlife cameraman husband Charlie Hamilton James, who decide to take in a six-week-old wild otter that’s been abandoned by its mother. Not only must they care and nurture her, they can’t let her get too attached or else she won’t be able to return to the wild.

“Grace” will premiere with a special airing March 2. Beginning March 5, AnimalPlanet.com will debut two five-minute Webisodes each weekday tracking Grace’s growth. A final, on-air special on March 30 will conclude the otter’s journey.

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