Interview with Hugh Hefner—the Publishing Icon with a Marsh Rabbit for a Namesake

Contributing Editor Dr. Jordan Schaul and the legendary Barbi Twins interview publishing icon Hugh Hefner about his love for animals and his interests in animal rescue and wildlife conservation.

Hugh Hefner really needs no introduction, but did you know that he has an animal sanctuary at the mansion, throws fundraising events for Much Love Animal Rescue, and even had a subspecies of marsh rabbit named after him. Well you probably knew that Mr. Hefner had an animal menagerie and probably are not surprised that the iconic playboy throws fundraisers, but his involvement in rabbit conservation probably caught your attention as it caught mine, right?

The Lower Keys marsh rabbit with the scientific name Sylvilagus palustris hefneri was designated as a distinct subspecies of marsh rabbit through research funded by the Playboy Foundation in the 1980’s. Hence, Playboy was involved in Wildlife Conservation long before many other corporate entities developed any association with environmental causes.

All marsh rabbits look like smaller versions of the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) with a smaller tail, and small ears, and legs. Unfortunately, the future of the Lower Keys marsh rabbit is in great jeopardy and the subspecies may be driven to extinction as a result of rising sea levels and direct and indirect effects of human development.  Listed as an endangered species in the 1990’s, the Lower Keys marsh rabbit’s population in the wild is comprised of only about 300 individual animals. For the prolific rabbit, that is not very many.

The Barbi Twins and I sat down with Hugh to talk about animal rescue and wildlife conservation, and rabbits, in particular.

Jordan: May I call you Sir?


Jordan: The only other celebrity that comes to mind, who has had an organism named after them is Michael Jordan. And I think the species was a microscopic organism. In recent times, only actor John Cleese and musician Frank Zappa have had vertebrate species named for them.  John had a subspecies of lemur named after him, to my knowledge and Franks name sake is an entire genus of goby fish. Even president Barack Obama’s namesake—a lichen—is only a plant. It must be a true honor to have a mammal named after you? Can you tell me what it feels like, if it feels like anything?


Barbi Twins: LOL We know that you have always had a special place in your heart for animals. What was your favorite animal that had on the mansion’s property?


Jordan: You are very well read. Are you concerned at all about the influence of climate change on our wildlife populations?

Barbi: Who were some of the great animal lovers that have been to the mansion or you have come to know.

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
With training in wildlife ecology, conservation medicine and comparative psychology, Dr. Schaul's contributions to Nat Geo Voices have covered a range of environmental and social topics. He draws particular attention to the plight of imperiled species highlighting issues at the juncture or nexus of sorta situ wildlife conservation and applied animal welfare. Sorta situ conservation practices are comprised of scientific management and stewardship of animal populations ex situ (in captivity / 'in human care') and in situ (free-ranging / 'in nature'). He also has a background in behavior management and training of companion animals and captive wildlife, as well as conservation marketing and digital publicity. Jordan has shared interviews with colleagues and public figures, as well as editorial news content. In addition, he has posted narratives describing his own work, which include the following examples: • Restoration of wood bison to the Interior of Alaska while (While Animal Curator at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and courtesy professor at the University of Alaska) • Rehabilitation of orphaned sloth bears exploited for tourists in South Asia (While executive consultant 'in-residence' at the Agra Bear Rescue Center managed by Wildlife SOS) • Censusing small wild cat (e.g. ocelot and margay) populations in the montane cloud forests of Costa Rica for popular publications with 'The Cat Whisperer' Mieshelle Nagelschneider • Evaluating the impact of ecotourism on marine mammal population stability and welfare off the coast of Mexico's Sea of Cortez (With Boston University's marine science program) Jordan was a director on boards of non-profit wildlife conservation organizations serving nations in Africa, North and South America and Southeast Asia. He is also a consultant to a human-wildlife conflict mitigation organization in the Pacific Northwest. Following animal curatorships in Alaska and California, he served as a charter board member of a zoo advocacy and outreach organization and later as its executive director. Jordan was a member of the Communication and Education Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (CEC-IUCN) and the Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (BSG-SSC-IUCN). He has served on the advisory council of the National Wildlife Humane Society and in service to the Bear Taxon Advisory Group of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA Bear TAG). In addition he was an ex officio member of council of the International Association for Bear Research and Management. Contact Email: