“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!

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

The Ridley’s Last Stand

Olive Ridley Turtle

Description:

Three secluded beaches in Orissa, on the east coast of India play host to an extraordinary natural drama. On certain nights between January and May, when the south wind blows fiercely, tens of thousands of female olive Ridley’s climb ashore to lay over a hundred eggs each. The sun and sand incubate the eggs and approximately 45 days later they hatch under cover of darkness. This time millions of tiny hatchlings make their way in the opposite direction – towards the sea, where they will spend the rest of their lives. 10-15 years later, those that survive will return as mature adults to lay their eggs on the very beach where they were born. For as long as is known Ridley’s have been nesting on these beaches. As a species they have been around for millions of years, but today these gentle giants of the sea are in conflict with man. During the last decade alone over 100,000 adult olive Ridley’s have been killed accidentally by drowning in trawl and gill nets of mechanized fishing boats that ply these waters. With the fishing season coinciding with the migration of the turtles to Orissa for nesting, nets often contain more turtles than fish. Perhaps no other endangered species is being killed wantonly in such numbers anywhere else in the world.

THE RIDLEY’S LAST STAND is a poignant look at the lives and times of the Olive Ridley’s that visit Orissa, and provides new insights into the natural history and conservation of these mysterious creatures. A self-financed, pro bono film, it was completed in 2003 after two years of effort by the filmmaker.

Positive results:

Shown to key policy makers, conservation NGOs and the general public (through many public screenings), the film, which depicts both the problems and their solutions, resulted in a lot of awareness and some action, such as the Indian Coast Guard being given special powers to arrest mechanized fishing boats operating in ‘no fishing’ zones. However, due to a multitude of stakeholders and vested interests and absolutely no political will on the part of the Government of Orissa, there has been no lasting impact. Thousands of turtles continue to die needlessly every year.

Contact/Links:

Producer: Shekar Dattatri
Duration: 45 minutes
Format: MINI DV Country: India
Production Year: 2003
www.shekardattatri.com

By Jason Peters

Save Our Sharks A Save Our Seas Foundation

Description:

Save Our Sharks highlights the terrible price of tradition. Sharks are finned alive for a tasteless soup with no nutritional value. Once the privilege of only the affluent, new wealth in Asia has made shark fin soup more affordable. The high price of fins makes shark fishing very profitable and millions are slaughtered every year. Many species now face extinction. Life on earth relies on the sea. The ocean needs sharks: the killing must stop.
Running time: 6′ 16″

Save Our Sharks – aims to influence the next generation to open their eyes to the devastating cruelty and terrible waste caused by shark finning all in the name of tradition.

Positive results:

Save Our Sharks is part of the Save Our Seas short, ‘sticky’ film campaign. The film delivers a conservation message in a provocative way designed to vividly remain in the mind of the viewer. The film featured during European Shark week and has been shown at several festivals including Wavescape in Cape Town (SA surfer’s festival) and the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan attended by 180,000 people. It won a Panda award at the Wildscreen Film Festival and was part of the Save Our Seas campaign category entry that won a ‘Rocky’ award at Jackson Hole Film Festival.

Save Our Sharks has been provided to WWFHK (Hong Kong) and Wildaid to help with their campaign work. It has been translated into Mandarin for distribution in China.

China has banned shark fin soup at its’ official banquets. Save Our Sharks is part of a collective effort by conservationists that has made a difference in the battle against shark finning. See: China Bans Shark Fin Soup at Official Banquets

The Save Our Seas Foundation hope to continue campaigning with the film to reach as many viewers as possible and change a tradition that is having a serious negative effect on sharks worldwide.

Contact/Links:

Mandarin Version: https://vimeo.com/46685530
Producer: Caroline Brett – caroline@saveourseas.com
Director of Hong Kong sequences: Jo Ruxton
Camera: Dan Beecham, Tom Campbell, Dennis Coffman, Alex
Hofford, Paul Menge, Lesley Rochat & Wade Muller
Editor: Alan Miller
Save Our Seas Foundation: http://saveourseas.com/

By Jason Peters

Timeless Traveller – The Horseshoe Crab

Description:

“Driving along the Indian coastline in August 1996, we stumbled into the little known habitat of the Indian Horseshoe Crab. Fascinated by this creature, we decided to delve into its story and the film “The Living Fossil” took form.”

The film Timeless Traveller – The Horseshoe Crab is a film about what some consider to be the world’s most spectacular scientific breakthrough that could rewrite the pages of medical history. It is an appeal for the conservation of a unique species and aims to achieve a widespread public awareness and appreciation of Horseshoe Crabs throughout India and the world. The horseshoe crab has demonstrated its evolutionary uniqueness by its persistence through geological time but of the four known species of Horseshoe Crab only two survive today. These extant species of horseshoe crab are subject to growing threats: Over harvest is a concern in North America but this is being managed, and in India, habitat loss and awareness of the species is a major concern. Once prolific on the eastern coast of India, today it survives only in a small pocket near Balasore, Orissa, where developmental activities threaten its existence.

Human populations are altering the landscape in ways that horseshoe crab, as species, have not experienced. In the long run, habitat loss and alteration could be a threat that even horseshoe crabs cannot adapt to. To protect this unique species we need to protect with immediate effect its breeding grounds. The horseshoe crab has proven its high value to human health as a model for vision research and as an abundant source of highly active biopharmaceutical and immunological products as evidenced by amebocyte lysate and related compounds. Scientific research on the Horseshoe Crab has shown that we are potentially on the verge of a medical breakthrough in finding a cure for AIDS, Cardio Vascular diseases and Diabetes. Research on the horseshoe crab has recently been stopped in our scientific laboratories for unknown reasons. We have to ensure that this research continues. It is time for intensive research and conservation and for the government to convene and develop an international program for the conservation of horseshoe crabs.

Aims of the film:

  1. Ensure that research continues in our scientific laboratories.
  2. Protect with immediate effect the breeding grounds of the Horseshoe
    Crab. This will result in protection of the species.
  3. The Horseshoe Crab should be protected under the Wildlife Protection
    Act, before it is too late.
  4. Setting up of a Marine National park off the coast of Gujarat may be
    considered to enable Eco-tourism and a sustainable source of income for
    the fishermen along the Gujarat coastline.

Positive results:

The goal of such a program for the conservation of horseshoe crab should be to understand the basic evolution and ecology of all extant species, to ensure its persistence in human-altered ecosystems, and to achieve a widespread public awareness and appreciation of the horseshoe crabs throughout India and the world.
There is little doubt that the horseshoe crab will continue to provide important insights as long as mankind can ensure the conservation of this fascinating creature. Potentially, this creature could save mankind, but can mankind save it?
Following persistent efforts after the release and promotion of the film, the horseshoe crabs of India, believed to be the oldest living being on earth (reportedly older than the dinosaurs), have been placed on Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, meaning that they can be used for research but cannot be killed or poached by anyone including private collectors, under Indian law. The crab has been considered important to humanity as scientists want to know how it has survived for millions of years… It appears the horseshoe crab is in safe hands, for now!

Other Achievements:

  • Swaran Kamal National Award for Producer & Director
    Category – Best Science Film
  • Getting to know and Protecting Wildlife Award at the International Wildlife Film Festival – Festival International Du Film Animalier d’Albert in France, March 2005.
  • Getting to know and Protecting Water Life Award at the International Wildlife Film Festival – Festival International Du Film Animalier d’Albert in France, March 2005.
  • Vatavaran 2003, Silver Tree Award in the Documentary Promoting Wildlife Category
  • Vatavaran 2003, Best Documentary in the Revelations Category

Contact/Links:

Film-makers: Gautam Pandey, Arjun Pandey and Doel Trivedy Address: C-18, Chirag Enclave, New Delhi – 110048, India
Phone: +91 11 26410684/26216508 Fax: +91 11 26216508
Websites: www.mikepandey.org & http://www.riverbankstudios.com/doc_timeless_traveller.htm
Email: wildlife@vsnl.com or info@riverbankstudios.com
See the film trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GhbPXpxDOE&feature=colike
Earth Matters Foundation: www.earthmattersfoundation.org

Articles:

Thanks to Mike, horseshoe crab may find a safe haven: http://www.mikepandey.org/ar_06.htm
Mike Pandey documentary has wildlife species protected: http://www.indiantelevision.com/aac/y2k9/aac833.php
Horseshoe crab: MoEF promises prompt action: http://www.indianexpress.com/oldStory/84711/
Non-Profit DVD Availability:
Contact the filmmaker with any requests.
By Jason Peters

Amazon Sells Whale Meat

Description:

Language: English

Running time: 52 seconds

Conceived as a short, high-impact campaign film with the potential to go viral, Amazon Sells Whale Meat accompanied the release of the Environmental Investigation Agency report Amazon.com’s Unpalatable Profits on February 21, 2012.

The film is loosely structured after the opening sequence of 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, replacing the high-pitched sound of a camera flashbulb recharging with a burst of whale song as a prelude to footage of the bloody reality of whaling, juxtaposing images of a mother and daughter viewing Amazon Japan pages of seemingly innocuous cetacean food products with images including the killing of pilot whales in the Taiji drive hunt and a fin whale being landed in Iceland.

Positive results:

Within hours of the campaign’s launch, the film was viewed thousands of times via a multitude of internet news sites and blogs, Facebook and Twitter which either embedded the film or linked to it.

Helping to spur tens of thousands of consumers to take action by protesting directly to Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos via emails, a petition, Tweets and postings on Amazon’s Facebook page, the film played a key role in speedily raising awareness of both the issue and the campaign.

In less than 24 hours, Amazon had contacted the vendors of cetacean products on Amazon Japan and all products were withdrawn.

Video Success: Amazon Removes Whale Meat

Contact/Links:

Produced by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA International)

Edited/Directed – Paul Redman
Written – Paul Newman
Website: http://www.eia-international.org
EIA Action Alert: http://www.eia-international.org/action-alert-tell-amazon-to-ban-all-whale-products
See ‘Amazon whale meat campaign: going behind the scenes: http://www.eia-international.org/amazon-whale-meat-campaign-behind-the-scenes

By Jason Peters