“Earth: A New Wild” blows away cuteness standards, presents uplifting and serious conversation

How many baby pandas does it take to make a conservation film a success?

Two? Four? Nine?

Hedging their bets, PBS, National Geographic and Passion Planet went with… 14!

In their upcoming series, Earth: A New Wild, viewers will get to ogle fourteen baby pandas, as Conservation International Executive Vice President Dr. M. Sanjayan guides them on a journey exploring the intrinsic nature of humanity’s role in nature. Filmmakers for Conservation was at a sneak peak of the upcoming series screened at National Geographic in Washington, D.C. – the five-part film promises to bring optimism to the conservation conversation to living rooms all over the country.

Dr. Sanjayan said he wanted to work on this series – and call it The New Wild – to remove the distinction between the natural and the human worlds. “We humans are part of nature,” he said, “and when you realize that, we realize saving nature is saving ourselves.” He said in certain areas it was impossible to film wildlife without getting humans in the frame, and he hopes by telling the story of how humans are part of nature – not separated from it – viewers will learn, “Just how much we need each other to survive.”

Filming over 5 years in 29 countries and 45 locations, the producers decided to separate the films based on habitats, with episodes covering “Home,” “Plains,” “Forests,” “Oceans,” and “Fresh Water.” The first episode explores “Home,” establishing the series arc that humans share our home with nature – and it goes big, with Dr. Sanjayan’s visit to the breeding center of the Bifengxia Panda Base in Wolong, China. Researchers there have determined when females are most fertile as part of their efforts to re-wild the iconic species, and after resisting the concentrated power of such adorable panda delight, witnessing the baker’s dozen of black and white babies roll around on the floor, Dr. Sanjayan dons a panda suit himself, as he witnesses the first-ever release of a captive-bred panda into the wild.

Breeders take care of giant panda cubs inside a crib at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, Sichuan province, September 23, 2013. Fourteen new joiners to the 128-giant-panda-family at the base were shown to the public on Monday, according to local media. REUTERS/China Daily

Breeders take care of giant panda cubs inside a crib at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, Sichuan province, September 23, 2013. Fourteen new joiners to the 128-giant-panda-family at the base were shown to the public on Monday, according to local media. REUTERS/China Daily

Along with Zhang Xiang’s historic amble, Dr. Sanjayan visits Dr. Jane Goodall in Tanzania, where new chimpanzees have entered the Gombe National Park, thanks to community initiatives to connect fragmented habitat by subsidizing border trees. But now the villagers report chimps have taken infants from their homes, highlighting the difficulty of life in the shared wild.

The “Plains” episode introduces the theories of Rhodesian-born biologist Allan Savory, about the need to restore to the plains the millions of herd animals who once kept them healthy. Dr. Sanjayan visits the Russian steppes, where the proboscises of saiga antelope once roamed with more snouts than the wildebeest of the African savannahs. With their floppy schnozzes warming the frigid air, the saiga roam, eating and dispersing 100 plant species. After the fall of the Soviet Union, poachers ravaged the herds from numbering two million down to 20,000, hunting their horns for traditional Chinese medicine. A boom in irrigated agriculture has also led to their home pastures in Kalmykia to become the first manmade desert in Europe, as 80% of the arid region has lost plant coverage. Dr. Sanjayan tries to show that hope abounds, meeting researchers who are tracking the saiga’s numbers, and finding ways to protect them from poachers.

The “Plains” episode also offers the most bizarre human-wildlife interaction, as Dr. Sanjayan travels to northern Scandinavia, where the Sami people were possibly the first to domesticate herd animals. Those who still live the traditional, semi-nomadic lifestyle, follow their herds of reindeer throughout the winter. The males can get very aggressive in the rutting season, however, and after the autumn battle for females they are so exhausted that nine in ten will perish in the following winter. Well… ancestral knowledge was quick to incorporate anatomy into the equation, and Dr. Sanjayan’s Sami hosts invite him to participate in the traditional cure:

The Sami call their modified male reindeer the “Gentlemen of the Tundra,” as they spend the winter helping the females dig through the snow for those last remaining morsels to munch…

Dr. Sanjayan kept the “Forests” episode under wraps, but FFC did catch glimpses of the final “Oceans,” and “Fresh Water” films, in which Dr. Sanjayan goes fishing in the mangrove nurseries of Florida for pregnant and newborn lemon sharks, and then kayaks the Colorado River to its end with photographer Peter McBride, where the mighty river painfully dies in the dusts of Mexico’s Sonora Desert. Although Mexico receives less and less of the Colorado’s life-force, not far from the dried-up wetlands it once watered Dr. Sanjayan and McBride fly over the Cienaga wetlands, where 40,000 acres of new life has sprung from farm water run-off somewhere upstream. Dr. Sanjayan points out nature’s resiliency: as one door closes, another opens.

Earth: A New Wild will air on PBS starting on Wednesday, February 4, at 9/8c PM. Now that you’re warned of the carnage of cuteness of 14 baby pandas, enjoy the programming, and let us know what you think!

The Truth About Tigers

Description:

India’s National Animal, the tiger, is disappearing at an alarming rate from its forests. Government estimates reveal that there may be fewer than 1500 left. Why have these big cats declined so drastically? What exactly are the problems facing their conservation? And are there any solutions to the crisis? These and many other questions are answered succinctly in ‘The Truth about Tigers’, a pro bono, ‘first-of-its-kind’ educational documentary on tiger conservation. The film also provides useful pointers on how ordinary citizens can contribute towards saving the tiger.

Two years in the making, the film combines stunning footage shot by some of the world’s leading cinematographers (and donated by various production companies and individuals) with deep insights from experts. It takes viewers through the tiger’s life – from birth to death – and illustrates how different human activities impact the survival of this great predator. Renowed English composer David Mitcham contributed music and Internationally acclaimed actor, Roshan Seth, provided the narration.

Produced first in English, the film has now been translated into 5 Indian languages. Over two hundred screenings have taken place around India during the past year and over 25,000 DVDs have been distributed free of cost through an accompanying website.

Contact/Links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoGuud-vIaU

Producer: Shekar Dattatri
Duration: 40 minutes
Format: 16mm/Various
Country: India
Production Year: 2010
www.shekardattatri.com
www.truthabouttigers.org

By Jason Peters

The Drill Project

Description:

The Drill Project features the first-ever broadcast images of wile Bioko Island drills; large, silver baboon-like monkeys with obsidian black faces, and dominant males with bright blue rears and red genitals. An educational film, The Drill Project illustrates the beautiful relationships formed in the biodiversity of Bioko Island’s tropical forests, and explains how the drills are an important part of their ecosystem. Viewers learn, however, that not all is well in these forests, as traditional bush-meat hunting practices have given way to commercial poaching with shotguns and snare traps. The Drill Project gives a voice to the drills and the six other species of monkeys on the island by exhibiting these lesser-known primates’ struggle with human misunderstanding and advocating the abolishment of primate hunting on the island.

The film includes interviews with local community members and biologists discussing the importance of wildlife protection to serve future generations and its economic value to the country of Equatorial Guinea. The film is in Spanish, the national language of Equatorial Guinea, and narrated by Demetrio Bocuma Meñe an Equatoguinean who studies environmental science and policy in the United States. Our message is a positive one and it is meant to give the local public of Equatorial Guinea a national pride in their wildlife.


Positive results
:

The Drill Project is currently broadcasting on the National and International television channels in Equatorial Guinea and premiered both in Equatorial Guinea (December 15, 2012) at the Guinean Cultural Center in Malabo and in the USA (April 15, 2013) at Drexel University in Philadelphia. In March of 2013 we organized film screenings in three villages near the protected areas where the last drills remain, and we left a group of biology students from the local Universidad Nacional de Guinea Equatorial in charge of continuing to organize showings of the film. The Drill Project has aired in schools, village centers, and living rooms to ignite conversation about the bushmeat trade. The head of the biology of UNGE is a friend of President Teodoro Obiang and claims that the president has seen and approves of the film.

Contact/Links:

Watch the Film: http://www.thedrillproject.org/the-film/
Director, Producer, and First Camera: Justin Jay: justindavidjay@gmail.com, (843) 991-3442, thedrillproject.org
Producer: Shaya Hornavar: sh333@drexel.edu, (215) 667-4515,
Editor: Megan Pollin
Narrator: Demetrio Bocuma Meñe

By Jason Peters

SAW: This Time, It’s for Real

Description:

“It’s the latest installment in the horrifying (but thankfully fictional) SAW movie saga…Or is it? Set against an eerie and remote African landscape, this sadistic killing spree is unlike any other and the helpless victims have nowhere left to hide. Because this time…it’s for real.”

Southern Africa’s rhino’s are disappearing at a rate of approximately 1 every 30 hours. This dire situation has truly become similar to the ruthless killing and bloodshed witnessed in commercial horror movies.

Earth Touch Productions who made this film for the benefit of the Stop Rhino Poaching online campaign, the film objectives include:
” To encourage continued public awareness and support as part of a committed and extensive media drive by StopRhinoPoaching.com.
” To rally financial backing from both corporate and private donors, the proceeds of which will be put towards implementing rhino protection projects in South Africa. All donor funding will be managed by members within the Rhino Chamber of Wildlife Ranching South Africa, a non-profit organisation that represents game ranchers as a national body in South Africa.

Positive results:

Unknown to date.

Contact/Links:

Earthtouch productions.
4 Sunbury Crescent, Sunbury Park, La Lucia Ridge, 4051, South Africa, P O Box 1437, Umhlanga, 4320.
www.earth-touch.com
www.stoprhinopoaching.com
Email: media@stoprhinopoaching.com

By Jason Peters

Solving Human-Elephant Conflicts at Thuma Forest Reserve, Malawi – Baby Elephant Killed by Poachers

Description:

Villagers along the boundaries of Thuma Forest Reserve in Malawi were increasingly facing problems with crop-raiding elephants which have led to 2 people and 1 elephant being killed in 2009. Although people are aware of the benefits coming to their communities through the “Thuma Ecosystem Rehabilitation Project”, is the permanent human-wildlife conflict affecting the local participation and support of WAG’s conservation efforts at Thuma.

There was an immediate need for action to protect both the elephants and at the same time the property and live of the local communities.

As an emergency measure, a section of the required fence has been installed and completed in November 2009 by the Wildlife Action Group International e.V. on behalf of the District Assembly of Salima.

The local farmers contributed with incredible hard workmanship to finish installing this section of the fence before the rainy season.
What has been achieved to date:
” Installation of a section of 12 km of solar powered electric fence
” Construction of an entrance gate
” Construction of 18 km access roads and tracks
” Construction of two small houses for fence attendants
” Training of fencing and maintenance personnel
” Temporary employment for local people: 3140 man-days

The now installed elephant fence-section allows the local people to reoccupy about 950 hectare of agriculture land, which they had abandoned because of the crop raiding elephants!

Positive results:

This film raises awareness and encourages donations to enable continuation of the conservation programme.

Contact/Links:

Chairman: Georg Kloeble
Wildlife Action Group International e.V.
Pfaelzer Strasse 22
D-83109 Grosskarolinenfeld
Germany
Skype: waginternational
Email: info@wildlifeactiongroup.org
Website: http://www.africanconservation.org
Link to film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNttZ6fg80o&feature=player_embedded

By Jason Peters

Our Blue – The Tank Bangers

Description:

How on earth did a bunch of diving instructors decide that enough is enough and we want our say? Well… It started in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Sitting on the edge of the stunning Red Sea. Home to one of the natural wonders of the world. Home of the Ras Mohammed National Park. The people involved so far are from all walks of life. Previously lorry drivers, IT engineers, bankers, soldiers, nurses etc etc, all enjoying their new lives as diving instructors and guides.

And then something happened. In December 2010 a series of shark attacks changed the world. For us and for them. There are many reasons why these attacks happened. We promise you this much – it is not because sharks are evil. Drop that thought RIGHT NOW. But the world’s media went shark hunting mad. And the tourism industry in Egypt took a massive hit. And in all honesty – this really upset us. But it did mean that due to a lack of work – we had a huge amount of time on our hands. Along with a large number of tanks. Ripe for banging.
Then on one quiet sunny afternoon a few staff did a fun dive and decided to make an underwater music video. A spoof. Nothing more. Something fun to pass the time. They filmed a crazy comedy version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. And people that had never dived before – that had never snorkelled before – really liked it.. Yet while we laughed at our own antics we realised something.. “Why don’t we write our own song. A song about the blue. And why we love her. A song that shows the world how it could be. A song that shows the world what we have done. And a song that shows the world we must change our ways. So we did.

It is our message to the world. It is your song. It is our song. Because it is our blue. And all we want you to do is sing. Because everyone deep down loves to. It is so much fun. And singing when we know it’s for a reason greater than ourselves – is even better. So WE are going to sing. For you. For us. For our world. And it’s about time.

The first music video filmed entirely underwater. Performed in English – the film has also been subtitled in 20 languages in order to reach a greater number of people. Only 5 minutes long – it took approximately 600 dives, 1000 takes and 10 months to make.7 minutes long. It has taken hundred of dives and thousands of takes. It has cost us a small fortune and most of our sanity. But it is done. We hope you enjoy it. We hope you get behind us. There is much yet to do. Please share it and please buy it. Sing it far and wide. This is our chance to sing for our oceans. It is time to go BOOM.

Positive results:

The proceeds from the sale of the song will be given to the organisations shown @ 5:40.

http://www.projectaware.org/givesharksachance
http://www.sharkproject.org
http://www.wwf.org
http://www.pretoma.org
http://www.seashepherd.org
http://www.unitedconservationists.org
http://www.marinemegafauna.org
http://www.cancerresearchuk.org

We are the fastest growing, most enthusiastic and darn right dangerous group of oceanic conservationists currently not in an asylum.

Our vision is crystal clear – we want to “Promote, Inspire and Educate” a better knowledge and understanding of the intricate and delicate machine that is our oceans by utilising music, comedy and social media to encourage more cooperation and unity between divers, ocean lovers and other marine focused conservation groups to really get the increasingly desperate cry of our oceans heard.

Our first major project “Our Blue” is a song and a video designed to portray the beauty and fragility of the ocean and convey how we are mistreating and neglecting her. Available for purchase on line from various outlets, with the song “Our Blue”, it is our intention to raise money to donate to selected marine conservation groups and organisations that will, we hope, enable them to continue the great work they are doing for our oceans.

Beyond “Our Blue” we have a myriad of ideas and projects in mind that are also designed to raise awareness and funds to support many more marine conservation organisations and initiatives both locally and globally including our own.

Our strength and effectiveness comes from our individual members who are continually proving that by combining our shared passion there is no measure to what can be accomplished for our oceans, their life and ultimately our own future.

Contact/Links:

Nick Stec: nick.stec@thetankbangers.org
Nick is an underwater cinematographer based in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.
Website: http://www.thetankbangers.org/
View on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5HXyOgz2YA
Join in on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/TheTankBangers/
Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/the_tankbangers
Help support the Tank Bangers and visit their shop!
http://tankbangersshop.spreadshirt.co.uk/

By Jason Peters

We Don’t Kill Lions Anymore

Lionness and Cub

Description:

Language: Maa with English subtitles
Running time: 27 minutes

Lion Hunting was once a tradition in Maasai Culture Today with fewer than 200 wild Maasai lions left, the Maasai are now becoming their greatest protectors. This is an educational film made for the Maasai explaining how to participate in the exceptional conservation programme called the Predator Compensation Fund. This film – in coordination with the team of the Maasailand Preservation Trust, located in the 275,000 acre Mbirikani Game Ranch of Southern Kenya’s Chyulu Hills, Ol Donyo Wuas Trust and National Geographic Big Cat Initiative – forms an integral part of the education element of a well coordinated educational, reward and prevention programme that has dramatically halted the decline in lion and other predator numbers in this part of Kenya.

The film, narrated in the local language Maa, with English subtitles explains the workings of the Predator Compensation Fund, a fund that compensates Maasai if their livestock is killed by lion, cheetah, leopard or hyena. It encourages lion and Maasai to live together, with a strong disincentive in place to prevent rules being broken. The film is shown to each and every village in conjunction with their local community representative and liaison on hand to explain any uncertain areas and has had universal buy-in from the communities in the area.

Positive results:

On average 24 lions were killed each year in the 275,000 acre Maasai-owned Mbirikani Game Ranch (population around 10,000) before the Predator Compensation Fund (PCF) was introduced in this area in June 2003. After the scheme’s introduction just 4 lions were killed in total in a six year period. The PCF has expanded to neighbouring ranches in the Amboseli-Chyulu Hills area with similar dramatic reduction in lion deaths. Cattle are now corralled into sufficient, protective kraals to prevent predation. Lion Guardians, scouts employed to look out and radio in lion sitings prevent cattle from grazing close to where lions are known. Maasai are being educated to live along side wild animals and see the benefits tourism and conservation brings to their communities with greater education opportunities and reward. This film has, as an educational medium, significantly helped in the PCF scheme’s success. They don’t kill lions anymore.

Contact/Links:

Directed, Filmed and Edited by Kire Godal for National Geographic Big Cat Initiative and Ol Donyo Wuas Trust
Witten: Richard Bonham, Tom Hills
Websites:
http://natgeotv.com/uk/lion-warriors/videos/we-dont-kill-lions-anymore
http://www.maasailandpreservationtrust.com
http://www.greatplainsconservation.com

By Jason Peters

Borneo’s Pygmy Elephants

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXtVSSStymo

Description:

Borneo’s pygmy forest elephants were once believed to be a feral population derived from domesticated imported Asian elephants, but DNA testing has confirmed they are a unique subspecies, who’ve lived on Borneo for at least 300,000 years.

This film tells the story of forest guide, Bert Dausip, observing and befriending the
elephants. His daily deep-jungle expeditions reward him with some of the most intimate and close up encounters with forest elephants ever filmed. Bert discovers one year old Fig and his elephant family living in the forests alongside the Kinabatangan River, in northeastern Sabah.

In befriending these elephants Bert has discovered that Pygmy elephants are far gentler than anyone could have ever imagined. They aren’t the aggressive killers that people think they are. Even females with newborns accept his presence.

Bert is probably the only person in the world who can track down and observe forest elephants in their wild forest home on a daily basis. This in itself is a spectacular accomplishment, but little did Bert know that once he collected the DNA samples for science his familiarity with the pygmy elephants would become crucial to an action plan to save these remarkable animals and their habitat.

Positive results:

Borneo’s pygmy forest elephants were once believed to be a feral population derived from domesticated imported Asian elephants, but DNA testing has confirmed they are a unique subspecies, who’ve lived on Borneo for at least 300,000 years.

This film tells the story of forest guide, Bert Dausip, observing and befriending the
elephants. His daily deep-jungle expeditions reward him with some of the most intimate and close up encounters with forest elephants ever filmed. Bert discovers one year old Fig and his elephant family living in the forests alongside the Kinabatangan River, in northeastern Sabah.

In befriending these elephants Bert has discovered that Pygmy elephants are far gentler than anyone could have ever imagined. They aren’t the aggressive killers that people think they are. Even females with newborns accept his presence.

Bert is probably the only person in the world who can track down and observe forest elephants in their wild forest home on a daily basis. This in itself is a spectacular accomplishment, but little did Bert know that once he collected the DNA samples for science his familiarity with the pygmy elephants would become crucial to an action plan to save these remarkable animals and their habitat.

Contact/Links:

Director: Joe Kennedy
Producer: Michael Patrick Wong
Executive Producer: Ellen Windemuth
Production Company: Michael Patrick Wong & Off the Fence

Buy the DVD: http://www.amazon.com/Borneos-Pygmy-Elephants-seen-Discover/dp/B0027VD3OU

By Jason Peters