Wildlife television is an important conservation tool. It can be highly educational, expose viewers to diverse ecosystems, and motivate people to care about far away creatures. Of all the natural history programs I am aware of, Wild Safari Live by WildEarth Media is the most powerful.
WildEarth is the brainchild of Emily and Graham Wallington. Founded in 2006 (WildEarth Media, 2015), it represents a new chapter in wildlife television. This is because WildEarth (WE) specializes in live broadcasting. Instead of airing hand-picked selections of footage, WE presents nature as it truly is. Their main program is Wild Safari Live, which I have been following since November 2014.
As its title suggests, Wild Safari Live is a live African safari. Twice a day, from 9:30am – 12:30pm and 12:00am – 3:00am ET, viewers all around the globe can explore the South African bushveld. Not only that, but they can send in questions via Twitter or email. They then have a chance to hear their question answered live by one of the show’s expert presenters. How cool is that?
In addition to being cool, Wild Safari Live has the potential to significantly benefit South African wildlife. This is largely thanks to its format. The drives are three hours long, they take place twice a day, and viewers do not have to travel to South Africa to enjoy them. This means the guides do not have to rush around looking for as many animals as possible. When they arrive at a good sighting, they can stay there for as long as they wish. And since all the drives take place at Djuma Private Game Reserve and Arathusa Safari Lodge, many animals are seen repeatedly. Taken together, these factors have two major implications.
First of all, Wild Safari Live’s viewers get an incredibly well-rounded picture of animal behavior. For example, natural history programs involving lions (Panthera leo) often show a disproportionate amount of hunting and fighting. This paints a limited portrait of these extraordinary cats. But Wild Safari Live shows everything. Yes, viewers get to see lions hunting and fighting. But they also get to see them sleeping, grooming, and cuddling with each other. They get to learn that a lion’s aggression is only one of its many facets.
But Wild Safari Live’s format has an even more important implication. By following the same animals day after day, for hours at a time, viewers get to learn about each resident. They get to see how they interact with conspecifics, the challenges they face, and what makes each animal unique. In short, viewers learn to recognize each creature as an individual.
More than anything, this is what makes Wild Safari Live such a potent conservation tool: it dispels the myth that animals are soulless bundles of instinct. By connecting with the residents of Djuma and Arathusa as individuals, viewers learn how complex they are. They think, they feel, and they have minds of their own (although their thoughts and emotions may differ significantly from our own). They are, in effect, non-human persons. As such, they have a right to exist. Wild Safari Live makes this fact abundantly clear.
To learn more about WildEarth, please visit Wildearth.tv. You can watch all of their LIVE programs there. However, I prefer to view Wild Safari Live on its Nat Geo Wild website. From there you can monitor the drive and the #SafariLive Twitter feed simultaneously.
Lastly, I would like to thank all of the WE team in a special way. Your work is of the utmost importance, and I am honored to be able to watch Wild Safari Live.