Jack Randall insists he isn't fearless.

The 30-year-old zoologist, who left his home in England at 14 to work for the late "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, has taken up his mentor's mantle, facing off against nature's slimiest and scaliest while the rest of us sit at home watching behind covered eyes. But the host of National Geographic's "Out There with Jack Randall" doesn't want you to be scared.

"If you don't understand the animal, that's why you're scared," Randall told the Daily News. "You just have to understand what's dangerous, understand their behaviors."

It also helps, he joked, that he's been bitten by a tarantula before and "didn't react too badly."

It sounds easy for Randall, who seamlessly handled a five-pound poisonous toad, a venomous tarantula, a jungle carpet python and an alligator at the New York Daily News office recently.

It all looks natural to him. Randall met Irwin through a friend when he was barely a teenager and at a time when "Steve was kind of big but wasn't a huge superstar yet."

"He was my hero," said Randall, who grew up in Oxford fascinated by apes and gorillas and collecting "every cuddly monkey toy you could possibly have."

He studied biology and animal behavior at Oxford University and then set out with a friend to Australia for two years to film a documentary. There, he says, he learned how to tell a story.

Now, just a few years later, he has "Out There," which airs Sunday nights on NatGeo. The documentary series stays in Australia for its six shows, but spans the continent: in one episode, Randall takes on pythons in the Northern Territory, in another he goes to the Great Barrier Reef in search of green sea turtles.

"(Jack's) pure joy and infectious enthusiasm in every unexpected, edge-of-your-seat animal encounter is completely winning and something we haven't seen on TV in a generation," said Geoff Daniels, an executive vice president for National Geographic Global Networks.

The show, presented as a limited series. It is unclear if National Geographic has plans for more than that, so for now, Randall is showing _ and teaching _ the world whatever he can.

"It's telling stories about wildlife, but I'm also doing research the whole time," he told The News. "I want to connect the storytelling with the research and the expeditions."

It's more than that, too; Randall wants to inspire the next Steve Irwin or, even, the next Jack Randall.

"It's about exciting younger audiences about wildlife," he said.

Randall admits to being scared at times, but instead of running, like almost anyone else would, he goes toward the danger.

"I saw a king cobra across the park (in Asia) and my instinct just kicked in," he told The News. "I want to interact with it and understand it."

"My instinct now is just, 'go for it.'"


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