WaterBear - Beautiful News: Conserving Species
Showcasing conservation stories of fascinating animals in their natural habitat.
Showcasing conservation stories of fascinating animals in their natural habitat.
For hundreds of years, American buffalo have been an important part of the spiritual and cultural lives of indigenous peoples, and a vital component of the Great Plains ecosystem which extends from Canada to Texas. But when settlers learned how Native Americans depended on the buffalo for survival, they eradicated tribes by killing off the herds. Within a few decades, bison that once numbered over 30 million were on the verge of extinction. In the early 90s, a group of tribes formed the InterTribal Buffalo Council to restore bison populations on native lands. By sustainably managing buffalo herds, they are staying connected to their culture and ensuring the long-term conservation of the species. Visit itbcbuffalonation.org/ to contribute to their mission.
Everybody hates wasps, but what if they were the secret to our survival? Wasps are feared for being able to sting multiple times and many people believe they provide no environmental service. Yet in the future, our food security could rely on them. As we begin to see the decline of bees, wasps are the new pollinating heroes. Specifically in the tropical regions, wasps pollinate over 1 000 different fig species. These trees in turn give life to an array of insects, birds, and mammals, all of which contribute to sustaining the ecosystem in their own way. We explore the impact wasps have in nature and learn more about this misunderstood insect.
Deemed the apex predator of the Arctic, polar bears are one of the strongest carnivores alive. Their paws, fur and skin are specially adapted to thrive in the extreme cold. But their strength and fearlessness don’t guarantee the easiest life. With climate change causing global temperatures to rise and the Arctic heating up twice as fast as anywhere else, even the adaptable polar bear’s future is uncertain. Learn more about how melting sea ice affects their diet, and visit polarbearsinternational.org/donate/us to contribute to their survival. Footage by Polar Bears International and KT Miller was used in the creation of this film.
Boneless. Brainless. Heartless. Timeless. These are the attributes of a jellyfish. The species is over 500 million years old and has survived multiple eras. As sea temperatures rise, jellyfish populations continue to prove their resilience by growing in never-seen-before numbers. Made of 90% water, their simple composition enables the animals to adapt to changing conditions. While large groups of jellyfish can be lethal to humans, they are a haven for small fish. Discover how jellyfish are acing the race for survival.
Despite the species having been around for over a million years, Komodo dragons are now more at risk than ever. With the lasting effects of climate change, they’re losing their habitats to floods and rising temperatures. A cold-blooded reptile, Komodo dragons need shade to cool themselves down and with the destruction of forests, these areas are shrinking. The world’s largest lizard in both size and weight, these iconic lizards need preservation.
Over five million stray cows walk the streets of India. This creates health risks, not just for the animals, but for the people who deeply cherish them. Hindu communities in this region believe that cows are sacred and seek to protect them. But extreme poverty means that not all families can afford to do so. NGOs such as Hindrise Foundation uplift people and protect cows, ensuring the public know the environmental benefit of this species. It's their mission to create homes off the streets for stray cattle. We explore the value of this revered animal to Hindu people, and learn how they can remain respected and protected.
Are ravens bad omens, or are these birds simply misunderstood? Depends on who you ask. Because they scavenge and feed on carrion, they’re often linked to death. Yet the common raven is associated with life in many Native American cultures. According to the Tlingit people, long ago when the land was in darkness, the raven disguised himself to steal three boxes from a great chief. Once he opened them, the sun, moon, and stars were revealed and brought light to the world. Legends and tales differ from one community to the next, with different perceptions of the raven as bringer of light and creator of the world. But the spiritual significance of the raven is undeniable. Watch how these birds continue to defy perceptions with their logic and intelligence.
Sea turtles are some of the oldest animals on the planet. Perfectly designed to travel extensive distances across the ocean, the reptiles hardly ever need to come to land. But when they do, they have a remarkable method of finding their way – through geomagnetic imprinting. Despite a lifespan of over a hundred years, turtles face numerous challenges before they even hatch. Climate change could be the final straw in their fight for survival. Discover how each sea turtle plays an essential role in marine ecosystems and why we cannot afford to lose them.
Caribou are essential to the livelihoods and identity of indigenous communities. But this species is on the decline as the result of a changing climate, logging, and mining. Habitat loss disrupts their migratory routes, placing caribou calves in greater danger from predation. First Nations in Canada are leading efforts to recover herds threatened by extinction. In 2020, the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations signed an agreement with the British Columbian government to preserve over 800 000 hectares of caribou land. With the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, they also developed maternal pens to protect caribou mothers and calves. Through this, they grew the Klinse-Za herd from just 38 individuals to over 100, securing the caribou’s place in history. Visit y2y.net/ways-give/donate/ to contribute to their ongoing work.
Adrian Steirn has followed lions across South Africa, chasing a distinctive shot of the ubiquitously photographed animal. On a trip to Sabi Sands, he found it. But it wasn’t what he expected. Just a few days after photographing a male from the Othawa pride, its body was found, barely decomposed. The jarring discovery revealed a nuanced consequence of human behaviour – vultures and hyenas had diverted their attention to a poached rhino, leaving the lion largely untouched. “The natural process had been disrupted, and we disrupted it,” Steirn says. “The ecosystem can’t even clean up after itself.” With approximately 20 000 lions left in the wild, photographing these animals is no longer a celebration of their majesty, but a documentation of their last stand.
Dragonflies are some of the top predators of freshwater ecosystems. Throughout their life cycle, these insects have a voracious appetite. As nymphs, they feast on small fish, tadpoles, and mosquito larvae. But in Canada, their appetite is decreasing. During winter, salt is used to dissolve snow on the roads. This leaks into water bodies, impacting the dragonfly larvae, and the balance of ecosystems.
Cities are never good news for wildlife – but chipmunks might disagree. Amid street hawkers and skyscrapers, their populations are expanding in ways we don’t usually see in their natural habitat. Usually, chipmunks scamper about trees and shrubs in search of food which they stow away for winter. But the concrete jungle has offered the critters a new lifestyle. With plenty of hiding spots and easy access to dinner, they’ve adapted to the convenience of urban living. Yet the sweet life doesn’t come without risk. Find out how chipmunks are dodging new threats and growing in size thanks to their modern habitat.
Seagulls are synonymous with sandy beaches and the smell of the ocean. They’re also notorious food thieves, but their hunting methods are far more refined than that of a scavenger. With techniques to trick their prey like mimicking the sound of rain to bring earthworms to the surface, sourcing food is an easy feat. Despite their intelligence, seagulls are unable to filter out plastic pollution from their diets. This has contributed to 28% of gull species being threatened. Protecting these birds is imperative to coastal health and maintaining an iconic feature of the beach.
These penguins roam the streets of their hometown, confidently weaving through cars and homes. All around them, urbanisation ensues. But how have the marine birds been able to keep up with city life? Well, not only has this South African neighbourhood embraced the rather loud and flamboyant species, but the development of the town has been aiding their survival in the unlikeliest ways. Just a century ago, their prey was exploited and their habitat fragmented, leaving only 10% of the African penguin population surviving. Watch how two breeding pairs found themselves on Boulders Beach in the 70s and grew into a colony of thousands that now run this coastal town.
Fur has always been a fashion staple, but the only statement it makes is cruelty. The demand for animal pelt has created a violent industry that tortures and slaughters animals for their skin, fur, or feathers. Minks are most commonly targeted, but cows, foxes, rabbits, and countless other animals face a similar fate. It’s estimated that annually, 100 million animals are killed for their fur, with farms in Europe in particular continuing to support the trade. Explore the many alternatives to animal by-products and discover how you can ensure fur is no longer in fashion.
Australia is home to some of the strangest creatures on Earth, and Aboriginal people have coexisted with them for millennia. But now, the country is experiencing an unprecedented mammal extinction rate. So what’s different? We look at the changes brought upon by settlers to Australia, and consider the importance of indigenous knowledge to the survival of the country’s most iconic wildlife.
Cicadas just might be our next food source. These insects are famous for their raucous mating call, which can be heard by females up to 1.6 kilometres away, beckoning them to produce the next generation. In 2021, trillions of these bugs swarmed across the USA, the largest brood of periodical cicadas ever seen. Their arrival has led chefs to consider an alternate purpose for these critters. High in protein and low in fat, cicadas could be a sustainable solution to the food crisis. Do you dare take a bite?
From as early as childhood, the stories we are told shape the way we see the world. Classic tales like The Jungle Book and Jock of the Bushveld inspired Adrian Steirn to become a storyteller. But it’s about more than just entertainment for him. “If I’m not telling stories that have a call to action, that push people to make a difference and protect our natural world, then I’m telling stories that are meaningless,” he says. Today, he uses photography and filmmaking to teach communities that they can share their land with wild animals – leopards in particular. In parts of India and Africa, these big cats live in close proximity to people and are often killed because they’re seen as pests or as a threat. But there’s more to leopards than the danger they present. In this film, Steirn explains the beauty of their individual nature, providing understanding for how we can coexist with leopards. Footage by Adrian Steirn was used in the creation of this film.
Despite their alien-like appearance, nudibranchs are from this planet. In fact, these creatures have been roaming the ocean floor for millennia. As more scientists begin to study these creatures in-depth, we are solving the mystery of their extraordinary abilities.
The butterfly is known as the symbol of warmer months and renowned for its spectacular colours, but so often our knowledge of these flying insects stops there.
Chimpanzees are highly social animals, native to the tropical forests of central and west Africa. They’re arguably the world's smartest animal, and share over 98% of their genetic blueprint with humans.
Despite being unable to swim, hippos spend a significantly long time submerged in water – 16 hours a day to be precise. So why not stay on land?
We know squirrels as our fluffy neighbours, but there’s so much more to these creatures. There are over 270 species, each with their own quirks and colourings. One of the most impressive is the red squirrel. Like their relatives, they’re extreme hoarders. In summer, they forage for nuts, seeds, and cones, stashing them away until winter. Any uneaten or forgotten meals sprout in spring, making these rodents the green thumbs of the forest. But today red squirrels face an unlikely threat – their own kind. Grey squirrels brought to Europe from America carry squirrelpox, a disease that grey squirrels are immune to, yet is fatal to red squirrels. Discover how conservationists are helping red squirrels get back on their feet. Footage by Niki Colemont was used in the creation of this film.
With a stride of 4.5 meters and the ability to move at 56 kilometers per hour, the world’s tallest mammal still can’t outrun its reality.
It’s no secret that a cheetah’s superpower is its unbeatable speed. But did you know that this is also its downfall?