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Disneynature’s Earth Opened for Earth Day – Buy a Ticket and Plant a Tree

Disneynature’s Earth opened for Earth Day
The Story of  Polar Bears, Humpbacked Whales, and Elephants


 

April 23, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Rights And Awareness, animals, Just One More Pet, Success Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Polar Bears, Humpbacked Whales, and Elephants – Experience the Planet Like Never Before

 

Director Mark Linfield and Friend

Ever wonder about the world’s largest land predator, how soon newborn whale calves are able to swim, or the little-known function of an elephant’s ears? While the answers might surprise and amuse you, it’s the adventure these questions pose that promises to be unforgettable. On April 22, you’re invited to experience an epic journey when Disneynature premieres “Earth,” the Company’s first wildlife film in over 60 years, continuing a legacy that began with Walt Disney’s Academy Award®-winning “True-Life Adventures.” Narrated by screen, stage, and television legend James Earl Jones, “Earth” reveals the seasonal struggles facing three animal families from the Arctic to Antarctica … and some of the planet’s most remote regions in between. 

Acclaimed wildlife filmmaker/director Mark Linfield tells why he and director/partner Alistair Fothergill chose polar bears, humpbacked whales, and elephants as their endearing main stars. “One thing that unites every being on the planet is the sun and its annual north-south journey. We wanted to document three animals that embark on incredible migrations due to the influence of the sun’s extreme seasonality … and these are large, engaging animals that we felt people could relate to. As the moviemaking went on, it became clear to us that we wanted a very subtle reference toward the future and conservation, which is why they had calves or cubs. Many of us have little ones and we’re always thinking of what the world will be like for them and their children. Most of the animals’ dramas are driven by their quest to protect their infants and get the best out of the planet for their offspring … nature truly writes the most amazing scripts.” 

To record “true” true-life adventures, there’s one thing Mark and his team couldn’t change, accelerate, or follow with a script — the erratic schedule of nature itself. He points out, “You’re lucky if the animals show up at all. Most days we didn’t see anything, that’s almost the law … the only way to stack the odds in your favor is to spend huge amounts of time in the field. We spent 2,000 days filming with 40 different crews in 26 different countries. It took about five years to make and we filmed solidly for three of those years … it was just a big logistical exercise, but that’s what it takes. Movies like this are powerful partly because it’s the simple truth.” Mark also explains that natural history actually translates better on the big screen because some of the up-close realism is lost when viewed on television. 

Larger than life, the animals’ determined battle against the elements is amazing, entertaining, and ultimately heartrending. Extreme weather conditions from pole to pole presented unique, and nearly impossible, filming challenges. “Just look at the environments that our three characters live in … like the polar bear. We’re actually in the middle of the  with crews working in 40-degree-below-zero temperatures. It’s so unbelievably cold that most of the time the equipment barely works or the tripod sticks to your fingers. Daylight was like five or six minutes long, which means it was dark the rest of the time. Polar bears are hugely influenced by the seasonality of the sun — half their year is spent in absolute darkness while the other half produces 24-hour daylight,” says Mark. The team was the first ever to be given access to the Kong Karls Land polar bear denning site in Norway, 700 miles south of the North Pole. 

Conditions proved no easier when the crew was filming the elephants in Botswana, the Sahara and Kalahari Deserts, and Namibia’s sand dunes, some of the largest in the world. “We worked in unbelievable heat, dust, and sandstorms … without water. The elephants aren’t affected from changes in daylight, but the sun drives the wet and dry seasons, forcing them to undertake huge migrations — their quest to finally find water hundreds of miles away at the Okavango Delta is pretty dramatic.” From helicopters, gyro-stabilized Cineflex aerial cameras allowed filmmakers to track the animals without disturbing them in their natural environment. 

“For the humpbacked whales, we filmed from a boat at sea, sometimes in a helicopter, through storms and a huge range of conditions,” he continues. “The mother whale and her calf travel 4,000 miles south, from the Equator’s tropical waters to the Antarctic Sea … it’s the longest journey of any marine mammal.” During the course of filming, the crew was able to feature dozens of marine costars, including schools of sailfish and a great white shark … the footage is nothing short of spectacular. 

The journey, as always, proved fantastic for Mark, who doesn’t hesitate when asked about his most memorable moment. “Filming the elephants caught in the sandstorm … it was totally unexpected. Just watching them trapped in a sandstorm, trying to battle the elements while looking after their calves, was very sad and emotional for me.” 

He then comments on his expectations for the film. “I hope people will fall in love with the Earth and basically see how much there still is to care about. Everything in the movie is available and can be saved. I hope people realize it’s not futile, it’s not too late … we have an absolutely amazing planet.” 

“Earth” promises to give audiences 85 amazing minutes that wouldn’t be humanly possible in an entire lifetime … or 10 lifetimes.

Source:  Disney Insider

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April 22, 2009 Posted by | Animal Rights And Awareness, animals, Just One More Pet, On The Lighter Side, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

25% of Wild Mammal Species Are Imperiled

      

BARCELONA, Oct. 6 — At least a quarter of the world’s wild mammal species are at risk of extinction, according to a comprehensive global survey released here Monday.

The new assessment — which took 1,700 experts in 130 countries five years to complete — paints “a bleak picture,” leaders of the project wrote in a paper being published in the journal Science. The overview, made public at the quadrennial World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), covers all 5,487 wild species identified since 1500. It is the most thorough tally of land and marine mammals since 1996.

“Mammals are definitely declining, and the driving factors are habitat destruction and over-harvesting,” said Jan Schipper, the paper’s lead writer and the IUCN’s global mammals assessment coordinator. The researchers concluded that 25 percent of the mammal species for which they had sufficient data are threatened with extinction, but Schipper added that the figure could be as high as 36 percent because information on some species is so scarce.

Land and marine mammals face different threats, the scientists said, and large mammals are more vulnerable than small ones. For land species, habitat loss and hunting represent the greatest danger, while marine mammals are more threatened by unintentional killing by pollution, ship strikes and being caught in fishing nets.

While large species such as primates (including the Sumatran orangutan and red colobus monkeys in Africa) and ungulates (hoofed animals such as Africa’s Dama gazelle and the Malaysian tapir) may seem more physically imposing, the researchers wrote that these animals are more imperiled than smaller creatures such as rodents and bats because they “tend to have lower population densities, slower life histories, and larger home ranges, and are more likely to be hunted.”

Primates face some of the most intense pressures: According to the survey, 79 percent of primates in South and Southeast Asia are facing extinction.

Conservation International President Russell A. Mittermeier, one of the paper’s writers and a primate specialist, said animals in the region are being hit with “a triple whammy.”

“It’s not that surprising, given the high population pressures, the level of habitat destruction, and the fairly extreme hunting of primates for food and medicinal purposes,” he said in an interview. He added that some areas in Vietnam and Cambodia are facing “an empty forest syndrome,” as even once-populous species such as the crab-eating macaque, or temple monkey, are “actually getting vacuumed out of some areas where it was common.

In some cases, the scientists have a precise sense of how imperiled a species has become: There are 19 Hainan gibbons left in the wild on the island off China’s southeast coast, Mittermeier said, which actually counts as progress because there used to be just a dozen.

With others, including the beaked whale and the jaguar, researchers have a much vaguer idea of their numbers despite technological advances — such as satellite and radio tagging, camera tracking and satellite-based GPS (global positioning system) mapping. The authors of the assessment wrote that most land mammals occupy “areas smaller than the United Kingdom,” while “the range of most marine mammals is smaller than one-fifth of the Indian Ocean.”

The report on mammals came on the same day that the IUCN updated its “Red List” — a separate periodic survey of nearly 45,000 species of plants and animals — and concluded that 32 percent are threatened with extinction. Its scientists added 20 of the world’s 161 species of grouper to the list of those at risk of extinction, along with several tarantula species.

Jonathan Baillie, who directs conservation programs at the Zoological Society of London, said: “It’s a continual decline in all cases.”

Not all of the news was grim yesterday: IUCN officials said that the La Palma giant lizard, believed to be extinct for 500 years, was rediscovered last year in the Canary Islands and is now considered critically endangered.

The writers of the mammals assessment said the observed declines are not inevitable. “At least 5 percent of currently threatened species have stable or increasing populations,” they wrote, “which indicates that they are recovering from past threats.”

Said Mittermeier: “It comes down to protecting habitats effectively, through protected areas, and preventing hunting and other forms of exploitation.” As one example of how conservation can be effective, he noted that in areas where scientific researchers work, animals stand a much better chance of surviving. “Where you have a research presence, it’s as good or better than a guard force,” he said.

Schipper offered the model of the U.S. effort to bring back the black-footed ferret, which was essentially extinct on the North American prairie as of 1996. “Now it’s endangered, which, in this case, is a huge improvement,” he said. “When governments and scientists commit resources to a project, many species can be recovered.”

Monday’s reports come as researchers have been documenting effects of human-generated greenhouse gases. In a paper published Thursday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute found that ocean acidification spurred by carbon emissions will cause sound to travel farther underwater, because increasingly acidic seawater absorbs less low- and mid-frequency sound.

By 2050, the researchers predicted, sounds could travel as much as 70 percent farther in parts of the Atlantic Ocean and other areas, which may improve marine mammals’ ability to communicate but also increase background noise, which could prove disorienting.

“We understand the chemistry of the ocean is changing. The biological implications of that we really don’t know,” said ocean chemist Keith Hester, the lead writer. “The magnitude to which sound absorption will change, based mainly on human contribution, is really astounding.”

By Juliet Elperin, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, October 7, 2008; Page A13

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