'NOVA: Animal Espionage'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)
Overview: How do you study an animal you can't even get close to? Camera and drone technologies are allowing scientists to watch animals more closely than ever before, without disturbing them.
Capturing everything from the unexpected to the comical, these technologies are giving wildlife managers insights that could ultimately help them fight extinction and habitat loss.
DVD Verdict: More than 14,000 species are listed as endangered or critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Some scientists have called for naming the present geologic epoch the Anthropocene, or “human era,” after the main source of startlingly rapid rates of species extinction and other environmental perturbations.
Understanding the biology of the species that are most at risk from this disturbance is a critical prerequisite to developing effective strategies to conserve them.
But scientists who survey endangered animals have to grapple with a number of special challenges alongside the traditional research pressures of publishing and grant writing.
For a start, there are the problems of finding organisms that are, by definition, relatively rare and may also tend to be elusive, nocturnal, or otherwise difficult to observe.
Then, there’s the risk of researchers exacerbating the very issues contributing to a species’ or population’s demise—for example, by increasing human contact or inadvertently raising the species’ visibility to poachers.
In the face of these issues, scientists are coming up with unique and creative solutions, from making use of new technologies to advising researchers on how best to present their results.
That said, and taking it all one step further, here in the rather fascinating 'NOVA: Animal Espionage,' drones hover silently over whales in the waters off northern Canada, capturing at last the unusual behavior that locals have tried to understand for over a century.
In India, wildlife biologists use camera trap technology to compare a passing tiger's stripes with thousands of tiger images to track its movements. With more "eyes" in the wild than ever before, camera technology is revolutionizing the study of animals.
NOVA takes you on a journey through the evolution of camera technology in wildlife research. In Canada, caribou outfitted with collar cams show conservationists which habitats they rely on throughout the winter.
In South Africa, specialized audio playback cameras help demonstrate how fear of predators might affect prey animals' very biology.
Beyond the gripping animal's point-of-view footage, and stunning moments both candid and comical, this technology is giving wildlife managers insights that could help them fight extinction and habitat loss. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
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