Seeing this photo of an elephant family on Smithsonian magazine’s Tumblr reminds me of an observation by the acoustic biologist Katy Payne, who spent most of her years researching elephants in the Dzanga clearing:
"Families in elephants are females related to one another, sometime three, even more, generations who live together and take care of each other’s young — a very tight, very integrated community. The males are considered to be outside the families, even though they are of course progenitors, but they live a very different kind of social life that involves competition between themselves. Most of the calls we found — although there were some calls associated with aggression, some calls associated with moving from one place to the next, very many of them were calls between calves and their mothers or their aunts or their cousins."
Korli Swart (Los Angeles, CA); Addo, South Africa
"A Voice for the Animals" explores the thoughts and life of Alan Rabinowitz. A profound stutterer as a child left him virtually unable to communicate with people. When he’d get home, he’d hide in his closet and talk to his pet turtle. It was the animals that helped him reenter the world of humans.
And now he’s one of the world’s leading conservationists. He’s called the “the Indiana Jones of wildlife conservation” by The New York Times and fights for some of the world’s biggest cats in some of the world’s last wild places. He offers extraordinary insight into both animals and the human condition:
"I not only wanted to go out and challenge myself against the environment, against odds, and explore wild places, I also wanted to be a voice for the animals. I did want to save wildlife. I always appreciated science more than any other course I studied because to me science was its own language. Science was a language of truths that would be there apart from whether human beings were on this earth or not. Science presented certain facts and certain realities. It allowed me to delve into a world that didn’t have to do with speech or anything else like that, that was human-centric but had a life of its own."
What a Wonderful World
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
David Attenborough is one of those chaps that helps you take notice of the natural world differently. So, during this holiday season, what a joy to see a BBC advertisement taking full advantage of his voice with playfulness and ease.
Q:Have you experienced Joe Hutto's "My Life as a Turkey"? Currently watching a program on PBS Nature. Some fascinating insights into imprinting, presence, and being... Enjoy!
I had seen previews on PBS for this Nature special several times but never found the time to watch it. Your question was the catalyst. Thank you. What a gorgeous film and what a novel way of seeing the world!
I’m embedding it within this reply so that others may watch it in the days leading up to Thanksgiving in the States. In many ways, characters like Joe Hutto and Alan Rabinowitz, whom we interviewed for “A Voice for the Animals,” are windows for our species. They’re eccentric characters that teach us about ourselves as a species and as a sentient beings through their interactions with wildlife. They also prove that we have a lot to learn when it comes to our sweeping generalizations about other species.
Here are a few of Joe Hutto’s words of wisdom that strike at the core of who this man is and how we can learn from his observations:
"And I realized that my involvement in this experiment was going to be a very personal, very emotional ride for me — and not just a science experiment."
"Each day as I leave the confines of my language and culture, these creatures seem to become in every way my superiors. They are more alert, sensitive, and aware. They’re in many ways, in fact, more intelligent. They’re understanding of the forest is beyond my ability to comprehend."
"Emotions are certainly not peculiar to the human experience. In their observation of death, the death of another turkey that is a member of their group, it’s a very conscious behavior as if they are trying to understand what the meaning of this is."
And, boy, I’d regret not commenting on the ending scene with Turkey Boy. My Life as a Turkey is a brutal reminder that with all of the kindness, the tenderness, and the social interaction between man and bird, nature and creatures desire not only to survive but to dominate and establish dominion.
Thank you so much for the reminder,
Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Photographing Panthera Onca
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
"The Maya said its skin was like the night sky. The jaguar was the gatekeeper to the underworld."
Steve Winter makes his living photographing some of the world’s wildest places and creatures for National Geographic: whether it’s Kamchatka bears in Russia or snow leopards in Ladakh, India. This month’s Smithsonian magazine features his stunning images of jaguars in Brazil’s Pantal wetlands.
Winter’s photographs illuminate the story of the Jaguar Corridor Initiative, which aims to create a “jaguar freeway” extending from Mexico to northern Argentina, giving these endangered predators the room they need to roam, hunt, mate — and ultimately survive. Zoologist Alan Rabinowitz, (whom we interviewed for "A Voice for the Animals") is one of the project’s leaders.
In the multimedia piece above, Winter describes his trial-and-error approach to photographing the Western hemisphere’s top terrestrial predator. At first he used methods that kept him safely at a distance but soon discovered that getting good pictures required patience, sun exposure, and the courage to confront the jaguar face-to-face. His fortitude yielded a bounty of memorable images of Panthera onca in action. See the results for yourself.
As I think about this map posted on The Denver Post's Tumblr, I can’t help but think about my own limited daily range with spurts of summer vacation routes and the like. Tracking humans migratory routes and spikes might surprises us — or depress us, non? Now, make this a project that compares this with data of other cultures and countries, or previous generations’s habits, and we might gain a new sense of what it means to be human in the 21st century:
GPS tracking data collected from radio collars on mountain lions, lynx, wolves and other wild mammals are challenging scientific understanding of the animals’ range and habitat.
Until about five years ago, the use of GPS technology was limited.
Now, Colorado Division of Wildlife and other Western biologists are tracking more animals using satellites and computers and seeing them wander farther, more frequently and far beyond the bounds of what is believed to be their normal habitat.
(map and photo by Colorado Division of Wildlife)
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
A Pictorial Corridor
by Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer
Conservation biologist Alan Rabinowitz has devoted his career to protecting “big cats” all over the globe — lions, tigers, panthers, jaguars, and more. His chosen vocation as a "voice for the animals" has brought him to places many of us only dream of visiting: the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, the jungles of Belize, the jaguar corridors of Brazil.
Experience a taste of Rabinowitz’s adventures for yourself. We’ve paired stunning National Geographic photographs of Rabinowitz’s work around the world with audio gems from his interview with Krista. Hear how Rabinowitz’s struggles with human physical impediments (a debilitating childhood stutter and more recently cancer) have shaped and fueled his passion. And while I’d love to someday ride atop an elephant, I’m glad to absorb these incredible photographs of tigers, panthers, and leopards from the safety of my desk.