Matt Wright, the star of Nat Geo Wild, National Geographic’s new wildlife channel, shows zero fear when it comes to wrestling crocodiles, surfing in shark-infested waters and capturing wild buffalo, bears or even deadly venomous snakes.
But when asked if he has a girlfriend, his fear is palpable. “I don’t have time to go on dates and do that normal stuff,” the 32-year-old Aussie says.
“I guess in one way it’s probably selfish I’m like that. But it’s got me where I am now. Not having to be distracted having someone at home wondering where you are.” But a girl could be forgiven for worrying about daredevil Wright. His new show, “The Outback Wrangler,” which airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m., shows the safari-clad hunk wrestling wild beasts to the ground, then transporting them to safe spots for conservation purposes.
“I’m headed to the Congo in a week,” he tells The Post of his next great adventure, which will force him to grapple with one of the most perilous wildlife situations he’s ever faced. There, crocodiles have become more emboldened about consuming human flesh, and as a result, have become much more active predators of humans.
“When there’s a human on the river, these crocodiles are jumping out of the water and taking these guys out of boats,” Wright says. “So that sparked a bit of interest. I wanted to see why those crocodiles are so aggressive.”
Unsurprisingly, many call Wright a real-life Crocodile Dundee — the 1986 Paul Hogan flick of the same name happens to be his favorite movie from childhood. “We watched it just the other day . . . When it first came out I was around 10, but I don’t consider myself a real-life one. I just do my work, and it puts me in that area.”
Raised with one sister on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast by his mother, a naturopath, and his stepfather, a chiropractor, Wright grew up collecting deadly king brown snakes and impressed his friends by taking them on as “pets.” He disliked school, he says, finding comfort instead in tackling any animal that crossed his path. His only weapon of defense? A knife. “It’s more so for cutting ropes,” he says. “You try and stay out of the jaws of the crocodile. A knife isn’t going to help you much if you end up there.”
With time spent working at oil rigs, a cattle station, a ski resort and three years in the army reserves, Wright earned his helicopter pilot’s license at 22 and has since put in 9,000 hours of flying, traveling with one companion when he’s in Australia: his 3-year-old American bulldog named Naish, a pup rescued from being sent to the pound.
“Naish has probably got more frequent-flier miles than most people,” says Wright, but she differs from her master in one respect. “She’s not too fond of crocodiles. She doesn’t know what to think of them because a crocodile doesn’t react to her bark. But she knows to stay out of the water, which is a good thing.”
Wright, who for years filmed his own crocodile conquests and showed them to friends, got his big break after a local news station picked up his story. From there, he was offered a TV deal.
According to Wright, the secret to capturing a crocodile — or any other wild animal — lies in approaching them with no fear whatsoever.
“Everything’s got their own space, their own distance. And if you can stay just outside of that without getting too close, you’re OK. But as soon as you cross the line or put that animal outside of their comfort zone, that’s when they’re going to come at you.”
Maybe women should heed the same advice in approaching the bachelor, whose last relationship consisted of seeing his girlfriend only one month out of the year.
Wright insists he is open to a serious relationship, even marriage . . . eventually. “Just be authentic and definitely not high maintenance,” he advises potential suitors.
Plus, it’s not easy having being a sex symbol. “You’re out in remote Australia and working with a group of guys and you’re being called a ‘hunky bush wrangler,’ and you’re just like, what the hell. You get a lot of flak for that.”