FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Save a Grizzly, Visit a Library

by Dr. CHARLES JONKEL

The mass media, wildlife film industry, wildlife filmmakers, Hollywood celebrities and wildlife agencies need a good dressing down. The proliferation of “el cheapo,” entertainment-oriented wildlife films causes drastic impacts on wildlife species worldwide. As humans become ever more oriented to human creations, totally urban lifestyles, glitz and glitter, personalities, high-speed everything, oddball “moments,” self-centered blogs, instant wealth at anything’s expense, frivolous religion and politics, and endless/meaningless drivel and marketing, wild animals suffer.

So the Croc Hunter was done in by a stingray and Timothy Treadwell by a brown bear. In both cases they earned their own demise, fooling with nature, doing goofy things with large and formidable animals better left alone.

Steve Irwin’s stupid behaviors with animals ­ teasing them, getting too close, goading them into attacks ­ not only teaches bad value and interactions relative to wildlife, but will be copied by thousands of other airheads for decades to come and has set ever lower standards for the media-an industry which constantly exploits wildlife with quick-and-dirty films, film clips, and wildlife “news” focused on the trivial.

For 29 years I have rallied against such wildlife pornography. I created the International Wildlife Film Festival to set high standards and to promote the production of high-quality wildlife films. Even before IWFF, I recognized that bears (in particular) were vulnerable to excessive and dramatized reporting and human interest. I started early on (the early 1960s) to teach not exploiting bear “charisma” for profit and gain, or to enhance one’s ego. I have always used bears as a medium to teach and communicate about science and nature, but in ways not detrimental to the bears.

Likewise, for decades I have been trying to encourage wildlife agencies, wildlife researchers, managers, law enforcement people, and university-level wildlife departments to deal with extensive wildlife exploitation within the mass media, the wildlife film industry, and wildlife film marketing. Professionals, well aware of the terrible impacts on wildlife by market hunters early in the 1960s, have steadfastly remained in denial about wildlife in the wildlife film marketplace. Even today, almost no wildlife management, research, or law enforcement is practiced on, focused on, or taught about the enormous, deleterious effects of bad wildlife filmmaking, distribution, marketing or screening.

I often note that hunters, fishermen and trappers are constantly controlled, regulated, held to high sportsman standards and pursued for violations. The typical hunter has a wad of papers about 200 pages long in his or her pocket in order to “stay legal,” to guide on bag limits, seasons, hunting times, sex and age, closed or open areas, care of the meat, caliber of the rifle or type of shot used, etc. In the meantime, those same agencies encourage and aid countless filmmakers, camera crews, photographers, editors, writers, and whatever to go out and do whatever they want, when they want and where they want. Staff biologists are not encouraged to monitor, evaluate and speak out on, or control, wildlife productions. The content is basically considered entertainment for in the evening, not a wildlife professional’s responsibility. Treadwell, for example, was allowed to do many things illegal for others to do.

Worse, perhaps, the needed standards, ethical evaluations, impacts on wildlife and actions needed are not included in wildlife textbooks or classrooms. The whole matter is studiously ignored, as not important in the profession of wildlife biology, despite the 29 years that IWFF and the Great Bear Foundation have called for action. “Poachers with a camera” still mostly write their own rules. People like Irwin and Treadwell still do what they damn well please with animals-countless actions that a hunter would be fined and jailed for. Star-struck is for kids, not wildlife professionals. Filmmaking should not be an allowable way to exploit wildlife for money and fame. The National Geographic Society and the Discovery Channel and all of their defenders should hang their heads in shame for promoting stupid TV actions over sound wildlife biology.

So why does this problem go on forever? People steal the charisma of the animals to boost their own ego and status, which translates into money. It is always the money. So far as I care, wildlife will be considerably better off without Treadwell and Irwin. Where are the other voices of the people who should object? Why should the balance always be stacked for the sensational, the glitz?

Charles Jonkel is president of the Missoula-based Great Bear Foundation

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail