One TV staple that was a surefire way to keep kids glued to the TV sets were live animals. Children were fascinated by most any live animal that was brought to a set.

One man who became very beloved by kids and their parents from 1960-1963, was B’Wana Don. He and his faithful chimpanzee companion, Bongo Bailey, entertained TV viewers on “B’Wana Don in Jungle-La" on WJBK, Channel 2 in Detroit.

B’Wana Don’s real name was Don Hunt, who loved animals and enjoyed teaching Michigan kids about the animal world. Don began his love of animals while working at a pet shop in Ferndale while he was in high school at St. James High. A while after buying the pet store, local TV shows began calling Don, wanting him to bring in an “animal of the day.” This eventually led to his own local television program.

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Each day, Don would appear in front of the camera wearing a safari outfit and his hat with a leopard-spotted hat band. The chimp, Bongo Bailey, was just as popular as B’Wana Don – prompting Don to claim Bongo was the real star, and Don was the sidekick.

The show took off big – so big, the show was syndicated and shown all across the United States and even in countries overseas. It could get grueling, however: he was live every day in Detroit and Cleveland. He would be on TV live in Detroit during the morning, then hop a private plane that would whisk him to Cleveland where he would do a live afternoon show.

WJBK decided to send Don and his crew to Africa to film animals in the wild and the tamer ones up close. Unfortunately for WJBK, that backfired. Don loved Africa so much, he decided to stay, ditch his TV show, and not go back to America. Viewers were not happy and complained loudly to the station to bring B’Wana Don back. The station started showing a replacement series called “Happyland” which made viewers even MORE mad. One viewer mom said, “My children just love watching his show. They cried when he went off, and won’t even watch ‘Happyland.’” Many others felt the same way.

Don stayed in Africa for fifty years, finally coming back to America and living in a home he built at Burt Lake. He passed away due to a stroke on April 29, 2016 in Royal Oak.

His TV sign-off: “Be good, boys and girls. I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Don’t forget your prayers. Bye now.”

His final wish: “Be nice to animals.”

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