Monday, February 22, 2016

50 Red Wolves Are Left. This New Film Tells Their Story of Survival

Conservationists continue to sound the alarm about the plight of species who are in danger of vanishing around the world. Yet, one of the rarest mammals in North America and one of the most endangered canid species in the world, is quietly slipping away with much less fanfare.
Now this animal’s story is being told through Red Wolf Revival, a film that explores the different aspects involved in the ongoing struggle to keep red wolves in the U.S. from disappearing forever …again.

These wolves once roamed vast portions of the southeast, but were essentially wiped out by the 1960s due to habitat loss and predator control programs. In 1973, they were protected under the Endangered Species Act and the last remaining red wolves were later captured. In 1980, they were officially declared extinct in the wild.

Seven years later, red wolves, who were part of a captive breeding program, were released in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina – the only state where they exist today. Since then, their range has expanded to include 1.7 million acres, covering five counties in the northeast part of the state. While things were looking up for a while, the wolves continue to struggle to make a comeback.

By 2006, there were 130 red wolves. But, despite recovery efforts, the latest population count released this past week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) show their numbers have fallen by half since 2012. There are now as few as 50 red wolves left in the wild.

Red Wolf Revival, which features private landowners, biologists, legal experts, wildlife officials and conservationists, goes into some of the aspects that have hindered wolves’ ability to thrive — ranging from intolerance of predators to political pressure to shut down the recovery program.

Last year, the state’s own Wildlife Resources Commission passed resolutions calling on the FWS to declare red wolves extinct in the wild, end the reintroduction program and remove wolves who were released on private lands.

The FWS, for its part, has also failed them. According to the Animal Welfare Institute, over the past two years the agency has “eliminated the recovery coordinator for the program, stopped reintroducing red wolves into the recovery area until it completes a review of the program, stopped sterilizing and removing coyotes (which hybridize with red wolves), and issued permits to landowners to kill individual red wolves.”

Despite pushback, the film highlights the fact that these wolves are not without their advocates. The message is clear about how valuable red wolves are and how important it is to ensure they remain on their rightful place on the landscape.

“I hope someone watches this film and comes away with: an appreciation for the passion and work so many people have endured for this American endangered species; a recognition for the beauty and necessity of our wild places; and most importantly, to see how valuable the innocent red wolf is to our ecosystem, our heritage, and our integrity,” Susannah Smith, the film’s Executive Producer, told Care2.

Hopefully this film will change more hearts and minds about the presence of red wolves and encourage more people to support continued recovery efforts. So far, surveys conducted as market research following a few local screenings in North Carolina show that this film making a difference.
Meanwhile, the FWS is expected to make an announcement regarding the future of the recovery program later this year, making it more important than ever to speak out on their behalf.

See the Film

Red Wolf Revival will be making its debut on February 22, at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC. It will be followed by a panel discussion featuring experts and the film’s director, Roshan Patel. For more info on the film and upcoming screenings, or to set up a screening in your area, check out Red Wolf Revival and show your support on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Please also sign and share the petition asking North Carolina wildlife officials and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to abandon recovery efforts.

Photo credit: Red Wolf Revival

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