Conservation

Conservation at a Crossroads

Hear from Dereck and Beverly Joubert, among other dedicated wildlife experts who are working to protect threatened species and their fragile ecosystems for future generations. Learn about some of the innovative new ways they are helping communities and wildlife coexist more peacefully.

National Geographic Explorers Symposium

National Geographic explorers—anthropologists, archaeologists, conservationists, photographers, educators, oceanographers, epidemiologists, paleontologists, geneticists, geographers, linguists, urban planners, and more—gather at the Society’s Washington, D.C., headquarters to share their latest discoveries and insights with one another and the National Geographic staff.The annual Explorers Symposium has become a forum for visionary individuals across a range of fields to meet and find ways to collaborate on innovative projects. Participants include the new class of National Geographic Emerging Explorers, along with Explorers-in-Residence, Visiting Fellows, and others. The 2009 symposium featured two days of panel discussions on topics ranging from cultural heritage to our ocean’s future, engaging communities in conservation to the power of the image.

 

Find out more at www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/projects/explorers-symposium/

Jouberts’ love of lions on display during ‘Big Cat Week’

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – When we think of endangered species we think of the red wolf, the black rhinoceros or even the short-haired chinchilla – if we think of them at all. But people rarely consider the big cats.

Still, they are among that elite group of animals (along with man) who are just trying to make it through the night.

Nat Geo Wild will chronicle some of these lithe predators when it plays its own game of Hello, Kitty with “Big Cat Week,” beginning Sunday.

One of the featured films will be “The Last Lions” by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, wildlife photographers and researchers who’ve been stalking the stalkers for 30 years.

“One of the alarming things for us, which was the sort of genesis of this film and this ‘Big Cat Week,’ actually, is that we discovered that in our lifetimes, lion numbers have dropped from 450,000 down to 20,000, and the leopard numbers are from 700,000 down to 50,000,” says Dereck Joubert.

It’s hard to believe, but more tigers are living in captivity today than in the wild.

“And by that sort of extension of curve, you will imagine these big cats to be extinct within the next 10 or 15 years,” he says.

“So we are very definitely passionate about big cats. We’ve been working on this for a long time, but now is the time for us to bring it to the attention – what we’re so excited about with the ‘Big Cat Week’ is that we found a broadcast on National Geographic that will actually give us an entire week and a platform to get this across, which is fantastic,” he says.

The Jouberts were born in South Africa, but say they moved to Botswana because they “needed to go out into the real Africa. … I thought that the big cats would lead us into a greater understanding of the rest of Africa, and then we kind of got stuck there,” says Dereck.

Why the big cats? Why not apes or crocodiles or prairie dogs? “They really are the iconic species in Africa,” says Beverly. “Without saving the apex predator, we’re going to lose vast tracts of land. If the apex predator is taken out of the system, the whole system will collapse. But also, man will move into the system, and man will eventually take every single animal out of there as bush meat. So we ultimately need to keep the apex predators alive so that we’ve got corridors for elephants, for antelope, and the tiny little dung beetles. It is vitally important.”

Part of the “Big Cats Week” is the National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative (BCI), a long-term commitment to staunch the decline of these denizens of the wild. While cheetahs have disappeared from more than 75 percent of their range, the cheetah story offers a glimmer of hope, says Dereck Joubert.

“Cheetahs today came out of a genetic bottleneck of about 200 individuals and then grew back up to about 45,000 to 50,000. Today they’re down around 12,000. But the fact that you can actually recover a species is what gives us so much hope, and we think that we can do exactly the same with lions and leopards.”

“A lot of people don’t believe there is even a problem, so they all feel, ‘Why should we worry?’” says Beverly. “But through the Big Cats Initiative, we’ve just managed to raise a lot of money for cheetahs, so we will have a lot of cheetah programs out there. We’re not only looking at lions and leopards.”

The Jouberts spend days upon end watching wildlife do its thing. They see the animals prosper and perish. Sometimes it’s hard to watch and not intervene, says Beverly.

“It’s heart-wrenching. On a daily basis it’s heart-wrenching. So I don’t know if we’ve got a certain personality. We have a concern of looking at the bigger picture and wanting to protect wildlife in general. And so it is wrong of us to believe that we are going to play God with nature. This has been happening for millions of years. What we’re trying to do is show how unique and how similar, actually, wildlife is to us by doing that (observing) – and not interfering – even though it is heart-wrenching. Often Dereck and I will say that we’re more emotionally drained than physically drained even though we’re working 16 to 18 hours a day.”

The two-hour premiere of the Joubert’s documentary, “The Last Lions,” airs Dec. 16.

The 50th anniversary edition of the classic film “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 30. It’s digitally remastered, enhanced with two documentaries and three hours of special features.

Before he died, Gregory Peck, who starred in the movie, told me it remained his favorite film. “If something affects (the audience) in a good way, it’s because the emotions are real,” he said. “They are exactly what they were. To make any sense about it, it’s emotion. You draw on feelings. And you hope that produces the right expression. You recall the feelings from some past experience, or maybe just out of your imagination.”

Ugly Betty is now a marine biologist – at least as far as “Sid the Science Kid” is concerned. The PBS Kids’ show is featuring pert America Ferrera as Dr. Rosalinda Cordova, a marine biologist and mother of Sid’s pal, Gabriela. She will instruct the children about different job possibilities in the world of science. The point is especially targeted to young girls who might like to become scientists when they grow up … The Game Show Network is lacing up its dancing shoes in a deal signed with ABC that permits the cable network to air Seasons 4 through 13 of “Dancing With the Stars” reruns beginning in January.

ABC’s funny family comedy, “Last Man Standing,” beat out “Glee” last week and hung in there as Tuesday’s most watched comedy. The show, which stars former standup Tim Allen, continues to climb in popularity. Allen was so successful on “Home Improvement,” he could have never worked another day in his life. But he’s still an ordinary Joe who still likes to earn his keep.

“Yesterday somebody said, ‘You’re washing your own car?’ I said, ‘Yeah, just because I have success doesn’t mean I’m stupid. I enjoy washing my car.’ Many things are different, my choices are broader but most things are the same. You don’t change essentially,” he says.

“There are times when I go, ‘God, I could just do ANYTHING. I could just live with gold faucets and stuff like that. But I think that’s more or less (having) control of it. I’ve been out of control in so many things in my life, luckily spending is not one of them or gambling.”

Article by: LUAINE LEE

For more information on this article you can follow these links:

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Charlotte Observer

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TED: Beverly and Dereck Joubert: Life lessons from big cats

Beverly and Dereck Joubert live in the bush, filming and photographing lions and leopards in their natural habitat. With stunning footage (some never before seen), they discuss their personal relationships with these majestic animals - and their quest to save the big cats from human threats.

Visit our TED Profile for more information.

EMA's Introducing the Legacy Award

It's fitting for the 20th Anniversary Environmental Media Awards to introduce, for the first time, the Legacy Award. After all, the Environmental Media Association was founded 20 years ago by Norman and Lyn Lear, and Cindy and Alan Horn, whose vision was to get environmental messages into entertainment - into television, film and music - and try to educate and motivate the public through entertainment. A true legacy of its own.

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Eight ways to save Africa's last wild lions

If cats really do have nine lives, the big wild cats of Africa are probably down to their last one or two.

But help may be on the way, in the form of an ambitious new program to explore, test, and develop successful strategies to restore and safeguard the continent's lions, cheetahs, and leopards.

The brainchild of Dereck and Beverly Joubert, veteran wildlife filmmakers and photographers, the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative has seeded eight field projects in recent months in an effort to stop and reverse the precipitous decline of Africa's lions.

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What I Wish Everyone Knew About Rhinos

By Dereck Joubert

July 8, 2014 5:07 AM EDT

The first rhinos my wife Beverly and I saw certainly impressed me. Then again, who wouldn’t be impressed by a four-ton prehistoric animal coming at you, snorting and blowing snot like a dragon with red dust rising up from its feet like the very beast of the Apocalypse?

I think I was 21 with a few years of bush experience, and had studied rhinos from afar when I finally saw one up close. Beverly feigned complete trust in me, stood behind me and held my hips. (Though perhaps it was less trust than the fact that there was not a single tree thicker than my thumb to hide behind?)

Nonetheless, I was determined to protect her, and dropped to one knee, ignoring the thorn that immediately made me regret the gesture and said we should be as quiet as possible.

Thankfully, the rhinos blundered past, missing us by a few paces, but clearly irritated enough by our scent to want to crush us into the red dust if they could find us. And that was the first thing I learned about rhinos:

They don’t see very well.

White rhinos must have once been like the calm Brontosaurus dinosaurs, wandering Africa and Asia in herds, feeding on vegetation as other big animals chased each other and slaughtered their prey, largely leaving these lumbering giants alone. There were probably millions of them, because they do absolutely no harm at all to anyone, man or beast. They tug out clumps of grass to eat, don’t go near crops or livestock and just wander peacefully.

White rhinos are the “chocolate labradors” of the pachyderm world. No one hates a white rhino. No one.

Black rhinos are little more rambunctious; they hook down acacia thorn branches instead of grass, and perhaps the rougher diet has a slight effect on them. They smash through fences and walls and cars (even trains!) if they come across them. Black rhinos are the pitbulls of the pachyderm world!

They feel pain.

No creature deserves what I recently saw on film.

She was a beautiful adult female white rhino, round in just the right places, with delicate folds of grey fat and flesh — not unattractive in rhino terms — except for one blemish: her face had been hacked off. She stepped out into the road, confused and afraid and in levels of pain I cannot even imagine.

Poachers had darted her with a drug called M99, just enough to put her down, but not enough to dull any pain, and then hacked off her horns.

Poachers used to be a little more polite. They’d kill a rhino and chop off the large horn and not bother with the rest.

Today, with a street price of $65,000 per kilogram, every last shred of rhino horn is taken; even the mucus sap is drained and the horn buds are removed. A newborn baby is no longer left to try to suckle its poached mother; it, too, is chopped up for its three-month old horn (no larger than a shot glass).

When the pain from the surgery, done with a machete, overwhelmed the effect of the M99, the rhino tried to get up and run away, so they hacked at her until she submitted to the final act. But then, they left. Hours later, she walked out onto the road, a bloody mutilated mess.

Poachers do this now because the risk of detection is increasing, so gunshots need to be kept to a minimum. If they drug the target animal and it walks away later, only to collapse and be found by anti-poaching teams, the poachers’ tracks are at the original site and much harder to follow.

I hope that people learn that “trade” in horn is disastrous, not a solution.

There is a move afoot in South Africa to offer up a solution for the intense rhino poaching that sees a rhino being killed every 8 hours each day.

With over 60% of rhinos in private hands (on farms and in breeding locations), those owners want the right to harvest and sell rhino horn and, according to their logic, “flood the market.”

Many of these farmers are actually businessmen, so it’s astounding to me that they have such a weak grasp of the use of a calculator. There are now 1.3 billion Chinese people, and the rhino horn market doesn’t stop there. Vietnam is a huge market and Taiwan, Thailand and other far Eastern countries make up over 2 billion potential consumers of rhino horn.

We have 18,000 rhinos left. A rhino produces a horn if shaved off, every three years.

In other words: rhinos today have the capacity to satisfy less than 3% of the market.

If, however, it is made legal to trade in rhino horn, millions of people will feel it’s OK to buy rhino horn, and the market will leap in size. For businessmen to feed this market (and sell their wares), they will market and manage the prices, for best-achieved value. As the price goes up, as any farmer would pray for, the risk/reward ratio for poachers will quickly make it more and more viable to poach rhinos, and the curve to extinction will quickly increase.

“Harvesting” rhino horn means that horns are sawn off.

Each time that happens, they are darted (put at risk) and moved. I don’t believe that rhinos have evolved over 10 million years to have a horn that they don’t need. So the after-effects of dehorning a rhino (or shaving down the horn) will have serious repercussions.

We are killing rhinos faster than they can breed.

This year marks a very interesting one. In time, 2014 will be known as the year when rhinos reached a tipping point, where the rhinos we have are breeding at a rate lower than the kill rate of poaching. We will officially go into a rhino deficit this year.

Photo Credit: Beverly Joubert