Daktari

by Guy Belleranti
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From January 1966 to January 1969 the family friendly program Daktari graced CBS television.

Daktari is a Swahili word for "doctor", but the male doctor depicted on the program was not your ordinary doctor. Instead, he was an American veterinarian in charge of an animal study center in East Africa.

Actor Marshall Thompson played Dr. Marsh Tracy. Tracy was assisted by his daughter Paula (played by Cheryl Miller) and two men - another American named Jack Dane (played by Yale Summers), and an African man named Mike Makula (played by Hari Rhodes).

biggest stars of Daktari, however may have been two animals: Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion and Judy the Chimpanzee. Both animals were the Tracy's pets, and each played big parts in many episodes.

Protecting the wildlife of the local game preserve (the fictional Wameru) from poachers and other threats was a common theme on Daktari. British District Officer and Game Warden Hedley (played by Hedley Mattingly) often called on Marsh and his crew for help. And sometimes Marsh called on Hedley.

In the 1968-69 season two new characters joined Daktari. One was Bart Jason (played by Ross Hagen), a former ranger and hunter who was now acting as a guide for picture-taking safaris. The other was a 7-year-old orphan named Jenny Jones who found a home with the Tracy family. Jenny was played by Erin Moran, the same actress who played Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days in the 1970's and 1980's.

Daktari may have been simplistic, but it was still a good family program. The series provided an important conservation message, and increased many a young person's appreciation of the rights of animals and the need to protect them and their habitats.

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