Q&A: Callan McAuliffe On His Mission to Save Wolfdogs

Callan McAuliffe Howl - P 2011

Callan McAuliffe Howl - P 2011

The 16-year-old "The Great Gatsby" actor tells THR about being the youth ambassador for the Wolf Connection animal rescue charity.

Instead of hanging out in Hollywood last weekend, Callan McAuliffe -- known for the films Flipped and I Am Number Four -- spent Saturday morning, Oct. 29, walking with wolves. The 16-year-old Aussie-born actor is the new youth ambassador for Wolf Connection, a two-year-old wolf and wolfdog hybrid rescue organization based in Acton, Calif., north of Los Angeles. The group's mission is to act also as a youth education and empowerment program to connect kids with nature and teach them responsibility.

The actor is set to start filming two big projects soon. He's about to fly back to his home country of Australia to shoot Baz Luhrmann's new version of The Great Gatsby. He'll star as the young Gatsby to Leonardo DiCaprio's older one. After, also in Australia, he'll take on Alex Proyas' action film Paradise Lost, for which he's already started training (alongside co-star Djimon Hounsou.) "It's ballet, sword fighting and things like that so it's loads of fun," says McAuliffe.

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THR talked to him about why wolves and wolfdogs need help.

THR: How was the event?

CALLAN MCAULIFFE: It was fantastic. It was what we call a Wolf Walk. There were around 50 people and they hike with us with seven of the wolves.

THR: Most of these are wolfdog hybrids, right?

MCAULIFFE: There are a couple of them that are pretty much full wolves. The majority of them are wolf dogs. They are mostly wolf but of course the breeders breed a tiny bit of dog into them so that people can own them.

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THR: Why do so many wolfdogs need homes?

MCAULIFFE: When people try to keep them as pets, they become too big, too tough too vicious and people don't know how to handle them. People really don’t know what they're getting into. They eventually end up euthanized or sent to places like Wolf Connection.

THR: What happens to them at Wolf Connection?

MCAULIFFE: They care for them and look after them and work to domesticate them. They have quite a number of dogs there and they work very hard to tame them so that people can interact with them. Eventually some of the wolves become very friendly.

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THR: How did you get involved?

MCAULIFFE: I've always had a natural affiliation with nature. If I wasn't an actor, I'd be some sort of biologist working in the field in Africa or something.

THR: Have you bonded with one wolfdog in particular?

MCAULIFFE: There's a wolfdog there named Elan. He's a very passive creature. He's very easy to handle. He’s the one I take out on walks.

THR: What do you do when you volunteer?

MCAULIFFE: As youth ambassador, I go down to the facility sometimes once a week, twice a week and help out caring for the wolves, going to the cages, cleaning them, grooming them, bonding with them, feeding them and taking them out on the walks. And telling people about it and hopefully getting people to donate some money!