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Born to Be Wild? Meet Mike Holston, the Man People Are Calling “the Real Tarzan”

Ladies and gentlemen, friends and comrades, we now introduce you to Mike Holston, the man people call “The Real Tarzan.” Drawing inspiration from legendary animal man Steve Irwin, Holston is a wild animal enthusiast. Have a look at his Instagram and you’ll find a colorful array of photos featuring Holston with a host of different wild animals. And, we have to admit, although some pics are somewhat scary, the results are truly spectacular.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

Mike Holston started his career as a zookeeper in Miami where he started to cultivate close relationships with lots of different wild animals. He eventually began uploading pics and vids of himself with them and it didn’t take long for his videos and photos to go viral. Now, his YouTube channel “THE REAL TARZANN” has over half a million subscribers and he has become a household name. Stay tuned for the full story and a look at some of his wildest photos!

Holston Isn’t Afraid of A Little Bit (Well, A Lot) Of Wild

Some of these photographs look a little scary, like this one, where Holston is cuddling, or rather, being cuddled by a tiger. But he often argues that if the animals are comfy and have what they need, they have no reason to harm you. Holston isn’t afraid of them, he loves them.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

When asked about this picture, he explained that of course, cultivating relationships with animals when they’re in captivity is not the best-case scenario. Obviously, he says, we would like to see all the animals released back into the wild. But he says that it’s problematic because due to human activities, a lot of their habitats are declining. It’s sad, but props to Holston for raising awareness!

Mike Is a Big Fan of a Good Cuddle

What’s great about his photographs and videos is that Holsten isn’t probing the animals to try to show them in a scientific light. On the contrary, it’s clear that he loves them, so when the time is right, he’s happy to get up close and cuddle them.That’s what we see in this picture, where he’s snuggling this cute little lemur.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

But, as evident on his Instagram account and YouTube Channel, it’s not always the stereotypically adorbs animals that he’s rubbing faces with. He also gets up close and personal with a whole host of motley characters, including mammoth spiders, anacondas, and crocodiles, to name just a few.

He Loves Panthers, But He Reminds Us That They Are Apex Predators

Holston started his career in a zoo. The zoo’s closed and curated environment often time provided the perfect opportunities to get closer to the animals. But since he has gained huge YouTube and Instagram followings, he has been doing a lot of traveling, where he also tries to seek out wild animals, get close to them, and get some awesome pictures.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

Here, he’s seen in a zoo cuddling a majestic and adorable teenage black panther. On a popular Instagram post, he explains that in the jungles of Central and South America, panthers are at the top of the food chain. They are cute, no doubt, but they are also vicious. Holston reminds us all that with barely any effort, they can “chew a bowling ball like bubble gum.”

He’s Been Called the Next Steve Irwin

That’s right, lots of people say he is today’s version of the legendary Steve Irwin, who, as you know, was a wildlife expert, environmentalist, and conservationist. We’re sure that makes Holston happy because he has repeatedly cited Irwin as one of his primary sources of inspiration.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

Like Irwin, Holston clearly enjoys getting up close and personal with all sorts of wild animals. With some of the animals in his Miami zoo stomping grounds, he has developed real friendships with individual animals. Like this chimpanzee for instance, with whom he has repeatedly been photographed.

Some of Holston’s Favorites Aren’t Even Scary, They’re Just Downright Cute

Obviously, Mike Holston has some serious guts. In a lot of his photos, in zoos and in the wild, he’s photographed with big, sharp-toothed, carnivorous animals. We’re sure that under non-ideal conditions, some of them would be looking at Holston as a tasty snack, rather than a docile human buddy.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

But not all of the animals can be dangerous. He can also be seen with birds, dogs, and, as we see here, anteaters. And we have to point out, these long-nosed fellas are exquisitely cute. In this cooler than cool photo, we see Holston going in for a kiss with this cutie. And we don’t blame him because this anteater is well on its way to melting our hearts.

Mike Holston Is for Sure Photogenic, and so Are His Best Buds

What’s the deal with this dude taking such perfect pictures? Seriously, not only does Holston himself look nice in all of his shots but so do his animals. What’s really unique about his wildlife photography is his skillful use of the selfie. While other wildlife photographers can for sure snap great high-quality shots of their subjects, very few get so close that they can include the animals in selfies.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

Just look at this picture for a perfect example. Of course, goats and birds don’t understand the world of photography, but somehow when Holston gets them in a selfie, they look like models. They literally look like they are posing for the camera! It seems that Holston just has a talent for taking picture-perfect shots.

Through His Animal Enthusiasm, He Teaches Us Quite a Bit

In addition to raising awareness about environmental concerns and animal rights, and taking amazing pictures and videos, Mike Holston also dishes out insightful facts about the animals. In many of his Instagram posts where he is seen with his best friends, he tries hard (and succeeds) in telling us something revelatory.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

For example, here, where he is photographed with a couple of chubster water monitors, he explains that although they have different appearances and names, they are the same animal. He goes on to compare this with humans, who can also have different skin colors but are the same inside. Then, he used the comparison to spread a message of love and tolerance on his Instagram. And he does make a good point.

He Loves Animals of All Shapes, Sizes, and Colours

Whether it’s huge elephants, dangerous tigers, creepy tarantulas, or snuggly chimps, Mike Holston loves them. Even if some animals are not necessarily dangerous, like non-venomous snakes or color-changing iguanas, some people get creeped out by them. Not Holston though. He’s comfortable with whichever creature he interacts with.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

When he’s taking pictures in zoos, he fearlessly walks into the animals’ artificial habitats with some tasty treats and gets them so come out if they’re hiding. We imagine that if these cute iguanas were hiding out, they wouldn’t be the easiest to find. Of course, at first, some of the animals are nervous about Holston coming into their home, but a surprising number of them warm up to him, and even get attached, very quickly.

Sometimes The Real Tarzan Shows Us a Side of Nature That We’ve Never Considered

The variety of animals Mike Holston shows us in his awesome photographs and videos is stunning. Sometimes, he’s showing cute creatures that we can’t even name. Some are exotic, some are less so, but they’re all interesting. As he wrote on Instagram when he posted a cool picture of himself holding this absolutely adorable creature: “Ya boy got a Pokémon.”

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

And he’s got a real point, this big boy does indeed look like a Pokémon! As it turns out, it’s called a wombat, and it belongs to the rodent family, meaning it’s related to hamsters and mice. Look at its adorable face and ears. This picture seriously makes us jealous of Holston that he gets to snuggle with it.

In His Travels, Holston Also Visits Animal Sanctuaries

Now that Mike Holston has hit it big and has a major following, he can afford to leave the Miami zoo and travel all over the place. He takes advantage of this freedom and travels to a bunch of animal sanctuaries and designated rehabilitation reserves where wild animals are protected.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

In this sweet picture, Holton was photographed at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, in Australia. This important place is the world’s first and largest of its kind. They take care of koalas and other various species that have faced increasingly difficult conditions in the wild. We truly appreciate all they do, and we also appreciate Holston getting the word out to the world about the critical work they carry out.

Mike Reminds Us That Animals Are a Lot More Similar to Humans Than We Think

One of the beautiful and profound things that Mike Holsten does with his photos and activism is that he humanizes the animals. Just remember though that animals are animals, and sometimes we get into all sorts of trouble by projecting our own feelings onto our interpretations of their behavior.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

Nevertheless, humanizing them to some degree is important because it reminds us that they have feelings, emotions, desires, hopes, and dreams just as we do. In turn, this encourages better behavior toward wildlife. Look at the cute chimp in this picture, it’s almost like he or she was born to smile for the camera.

His Activism Is a Call to Peace and to Improved Treatment of All Wildlife

It’s true that Mike Holston’s photos and videos on his YouTube channel and Instagram are extremely fun, but they also have a serious side to them. In many of his videos and posts, he spreads messages of animal rights and urges the public to wake to the dangers some of our activities pose to animals.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

In the post accompanying this picture, he encourages people to sign up to subscribe to his platforms, have fun and be awed, but also to get informed about what’s going on. African rhinos, in particular, he says, need help. Holsten is offering a free trip to Africa for two lucky viewers and subscribers.

How Do You Keep Your Cool Around so Many Big Cats?

There is definitely something scary about big cats. Well, it’s no surprise why. They have huge claws, they eat meat, they run really fast, and some of them are way bigger than humans. National Geographic is full of footage of lions viciously chasing down gazelles and feasting on them. It’s a simple fact: big cats are dangerous. How does Mike Holston keep his cool around them, and how is he not scared of getting mauled?

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

Contrary to what many believe, big cats will not just devour you for fun. In fact, when they’re not really hungry, old, sick, or incapacitated in some way, they really have no reason to hurt anyone, and usually, they don’t. In the contexts in which Holston interacts with them, the big kitties are well-fed and taken care of. So really, there is no reason for them to want to attack him. And as a result, he’s even able to do things like go for a dip with them.

He Teaches Us a Lot, and He Does a Good Deal of Learning Himself

Besides being visually fantastic and exciting, Mike Holsten’s platforms and activities are super educational. He’s always throwing around accurate and fun facts about this or that animal and updating us regarding environmental concerns. But besides educating his fan-base, he also does a great deal of learning himself. He goes through a great deal of effort to become informed about every animal he interacts with.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

His research and knowledge acquisition is independent, meaning not in affiliation with any university or research institute, and he does a great job of educating himself. For instance, in a post showing off these two adorable cubs, he writes “They [lions] maintain the boundaries of their territory, which can be as large as 100 miles but roaring, marking it with urine, and chasing off intruders.”

Mike Holsten Is Dedicated to Helping Animals However He Can

Mike Holsten’s messages of animal love and environmentalism reach lots of people all over the world. And with that big a platform, it’s reasonable to assume that he really makes a difference. But besides his large scale public operations and awareness-raising drives, he also gets his hands dirty and is involved in all sorts of small-scale activities. For example, a couple of years ago Miami saw some of the coldest nights it has seen in a very long time.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

Iguanas, being cold-blooded reptiles, got into some trouble. The weather was too cold for them, and sadly, it rendered some of them immobile, and many fell out of trees. Holston and a friend spent several sleepless days and nights going to places that were worst affected by the weather and helping the iguanas that fell. Big shoutout to Holston and his friend for doing a good deed.

He Gets All Sorts of Recognition From Us Humans, but What’s About From the Animals?

Holsten has received lots of praise from communities around the world. On some of his travels, he visits some incredibly remote regions and mingles with the locals there. This, too, has gotten him all sorts of pats on the back. In today’s world, we need more people that are willing to get important conservationist messages out to the world.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

Holston does good work and gets mad love from lots of people. But what’s about from the animals? Well, in the pictures, it looks like they too love him. And by all reports, the pics are telling the truth. He puts a lot of time and effort into forming bonds with tons of animals, and it pays off. When he comes into their territory, they are often happy to see him and if they’re small enough, like these little guys, they sometimes crawl all over him!

Not All of The Real Tarzan’s Favorite Animals Are Wild

Obviously Mike Holsten has some kind of love for wild animals. Maybe it’s no wonder, then, that his best bud is a pit bull. These dogs are really cute and can be extremely sweet but they get a bad name sometimes. It’s not clear whether pit bulls, as a breed, are prone to bad behavior, or whether there just seems to be a lot of cases of training gone wrong.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

In any case, it seems that if given lots of love and tender care, these pooches are awesome. Take Holsten’s pit bull, Snatchers, for example. He’s a real good-boy. In the Instagram post featuring this picture, Holsten says, “I know you can’t read this kid but dad loves you more than life itself!” There’s no denying, this is sweet and cute on every level.

The Education Mike Provides Isn’t Limited to Virtual Platforms

Mike Holsten knows a thing or two about wild animals and he puts tons of effort into educating the public and himself. In many of his posts and videos, you can often find him sharing fascinating facts about the animals he loves. But his educational pushes are not limited to his activities on virtual platforms.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

In fact, since he’s been doing a lot of traveling, his destinations have included schools and communities all over the world, where he goes to teach children about animals. His talks also involve important discussions on environmentalism and conservationism. Holston has actually said that he considers himself an “animal educator.” Well, we certainly enjoy learning from him.

Never Try to Insist That Animals Accept You

It’s not always easy to get into the good books of a baboon or lion. But Holston says that in his line of work, that’s ok. First of all, animals have fluctuating moods, just like humans. Sometimes, they simply don’t feel like socializing, and that’s fine, says Holston. There’s no point in aggressively trying to impose yourself on them or their territory. In fact, that kind of behavior can actually be quite dangerous.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

In the Instagram post where Holston is seen chilling with his self-described “baboon girlfriend Shengrala”, he wrote “The best part of working with most mature animals…you don’t accept them… they accept you… if they want!” He went on to say that even though it’s true that most of the animals he chills with are indeed wild, they still all have soft spots.

His Platform Is Used to Speak out Against Ivory Trade and Collection

Of course, Mike Holston has hundreds (if not thousands) of close animal pals. But among his favorites, and certainly among ours, is Bubbles, a super cute elephant that has one tusk. From the information available, we’re not sure what happened to the other tusk, but we’re happy to see Bubbles is well taken care of now and gets a ton of love.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

Holston has used his platform to condemn the trade, sale, and acquisition of ivory, which heavily affects elephants and rhinos. He claims that an average rhino horn can sell for $250,000 on the black market. Prices like this make the deplorable industry lucrative for the scumbags involved. Thankfully, people like Holston speak out against the atrocity. A couple of years ago, he even traveled to Africa to engage in activism up close.

Boma the Anaconda Is One of Mike’s Absolute Favs

It’s impossible to tell which one of Mike Holsten’s buddies is his favorite. In fact, he probably doesn’t have just one. But if there was just one, one of the candidates for that top spot would for sure be Boma, the huge anaconda. Holsten takes photographs with Boma in all sorts of different places. He even goes swimming with Boma.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

Some of his pictures and posts make us cringe in fear a little bit, and his anaconda pictures, in particular, are of that category. These snaky boys are incredibly strong and although it’s clear that Holston is in good shape, Boma would have no problem squeezing him. Scary, but very cool.

Some Animals Require More Caution Than Others

Of course, some animals have the potential to harm you more than others. Mike Holston realizes this, and he says he takes steps to prevent injuries to himself, to other people, and to the animals themselves. For example, in this picture, Holston is chilling with a couple of parrots. Besides maybe pecking at you a little bit (or hurting your feelings with some well-rehearsed insults), they will never pose much of a threat.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

This is not the case with bigger, faster, meat-eating animals. But Holston is also down to hang out with them. He acknowledges that there can be danger there, but he takes precautions. For one, he makes sure he never hangs out with the more dangerous animals when they’re hungry or ill. Also, sometimes, a certain animal can be in a bad mood, so Holston also avoids them if he detects something like that.

Holston’s Animal Rights Messages Go Beyond the Wild Animals

Mike Holston absolutely loves wild animals. But of course, being an animal man, he also loves domesticated critters. In lots of pictures, you see him with his beloved dog Sketchers. But how does he feel when it comes to eating meat? Well, as it turns out, he’s vegan, and he strongly encourages other people to follow suit and get with the green program.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

But some of his messages also take a more serious tone. Some of his posts feature difficult pictures of animals suffering. And his message is clear: in the industrial meat industry, this kind of suffering is commonplace. He urges us to think long and hard about our present and future relationship with domesticated animals.

With so Much Interaction With so Many Animals, He Developed a Calm Approach to Unusual Situations

It’s clear that some of the animals Mike Holston cares for and hangs out with could be dangerous if they’re hungry or unwell. At the beginning of his zookeeper training, and even more so at the beginning of his Instagram and YouTube careers, he was nervous about being around the more dangerous ones. And we don’t blame him. No human would blame him.

Image: Instagram / therealtarzann

We humans (like other apes, and most other animals) have evolved over the course of millions of years to be acutely averse to situations like we see here, for example, snakes crawling all over you. This makes sense from a developmental perspective, before modernity (and still today in many places), a snake bite could be your end. So, for Holston, it has certainly taken some getting used to!