Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

Disaster and Hope

June 18, 2009

Hellbenders and gorillas have very little in common; one is an ugly amphibian and the other a noble-looking primate. However, what they do have in common is an alarming decrease in their numbers along with many other animals.  How is it possible to save these creatures as well as many others in immediate need of our attention?

The hellbender is at a distinct disadvantage.  Slimy with beady eyes, it is not a candidate for a Disney movie.  So why have the people of the Blue River, Indiana adopted it as a mascot for their river?  It won’t increase the value of their land, it won’t bring status to the community and the only interaction these folks will have with hellbenders is occasional fishing bait theft.

The hellbenders are a symbol of commitment to this river, a living reminder of how these people and their forebears guarded the river from abuse. If the hellbender is disappearing, the people living on the Blue River want to know about it and will exert the political muscle to stop it.

Mountain gorillas, on the other hand, are impressive animals.  Eco-tourists are willing to pay a lot of money to observe them in the wild, bringing the Mfubira people of the Bwindi Inpenetrable Forest an incredible amount of capital.  For the Mfubira, who have suffered from war and poverty, their primary concerns today are education and proper health care for their children.  The gorillas are a means to these ends.

With no practical way to patrol the forest, the Uganda Wildlife Authority fought a loosing battle with poachers who had nearly decimated the mountain gorilla.  Today, the Mfubira act as the eyes and ears of the UWA to report suspicious activity. As a result, poaching has been nearly eradicated in Bwindi.

In the case of both the hellbender and the mountain gorilla, their survival depends on the will of the local people. Perhaps, we can’t all have mountain gorillas in our backyards, but if we look hard enough we can find something worthy of our attention.  Whether it’s a mussel, a butterfly, a bear or a frog, what does matter is that we find something to care about and take it seriously.

For full videos visit:

White Nose Syndrome Web Documentary

June 12, 2009

The Forest Service recently hired us to produce a short program about White Nose Syndrome. It’s a fungus that has been killing bats by the hundreds of thousands in the Northeast and Appalachia. It’s important to let people know that the fungus is spreading fast and that people may be one of the vectors for its spread. It can be viewed at

It’s scary to think we may see the end of several species of bats in just a couple of years. The Indiana bat, Myotis sodalis, has been on the endangered list since the 60’s.  The US Fish & Wildlife Service has worked hard to keep their numbers from declining and actually saw some modest increases in the last decade. However, if the fungus reaches the Midwest (and it’s nearly a certainty that it will) it could mean extinction for the Indiana bat.

Bats have the novel ability to be both cute and repugnant at the same time. People often overlook their contribution to the environment because they’re difficult to observe.  While making “Caves: Life Beneath the Forest” we were able to access a bat cave just as the bats were waking up from hibernation.  They covered the ceiling and squeaked at us as we arranged the camera and light. We were able to get within inches of the animals and could hear the little lip smacks when they yawned. Each bat would go through a convulsive shake to get their body temperature up before flying away. I used a +1 diopter to get close to the bat while it hung on the ceiling and Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun mic for the squeaks and wing flutters.

We posted short videos of the bats at our site: