Over the course of his more than 25-year career as an animal manager and trainer, Josh Ruffell has worked with a wide variety of species in the United States, Japan, Australia and around the globe. Currently a freelance animal trainer for the movie and television industry, Josh Ruffell’s experience also includes serving as a wildlife consultant on multiple seasons of the television series Survivor. The series’ 17th season was filmed in the Wonga Wongue Presidential Reserve in the central African country of Gabon.
Located in Gabon’s northwest region, on the Atlantic coast, the Wonga Wongue Presidential Reserve encompasses 500,000 hectares. The biodiverse area contains a range of landscapes, including lush green savannas and dense jungle. Dunes in the reserve reach as high as 300 meters, and erosion has carved out natural amphitheaters of red and white clay.
A protected area, the Wonga Wongue Presidential Reserve is also home to diverse species of animals. During the shooting of Survivor: Gabon, contestants and crew encountered elephants, a leopard, and a 12-foot python, though none of these encounters resulted in any harm to those involved in the production or to the animals. Antelopes, hippopotami, lowland gorillas, panthers, colobus monkeys, and red river hogs also live there, and turtles and various birds lay their eggs on the reserves white-sand beaches.