Saiga sanctuary to be featured in “Our Planet” series

Photo: ©IFAW/ Evgeniy PolonskiyThis report comes courtesy of Vladimir Kalmykov, Director of the Stepnoy Sanctuary.

The beautiful landscapes and wildlife of the Stepnoy State Natural Sanctuary in the Russian Astrakhan region, supported for a number of years by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in efforts to conserve wild saiga antelope, will be featured in a series called Our Planet, made by the producers of the famous BBC TV series Planet Earth.

The producers chose locations in various biomes to show the Earth’s biological diversity and highlight the need for conservation efforts necessary to make sure that future generations are able to enjoy the beauty of nature.

During three weeks in May-June 2016, two filmmakers from Great Britain, Ben Macdonald, researcher at Silverback Films, England, and John Aitchison, a wildlife cameraman and photographer from Scotland, immersed themselves in the wonderful steppe world, where not only the saiga herds go for calving, but it is possible to see wolves and hares, birds of prey nestle and their nestlings hatch.

All of these symbolize a well-protected ecosystem, inhabited by prey and predators as parts of the food chain. The steppe itself is an unforgettable sight: After plentiful rains it looks like a carpet of flowering herbs stretching into the sky.

Filmmakers Ben Macdonald, researcher at Silverback Films, England, and John Aitchison, wildlife cameraman and photographer from Scotland.Photo: © Nikolay Yudenko.

Here is how Ben and John described their impressions of the Sanctuary:

“During the three weeks of working with Vladimir Kalmykov and the team of “Stepnoy” Sanctuary, among other things we noticed one extremely important point that made it worth traveling from England. In majority of Western countries, a large number of people participate in conservation of very few animals, while in “Stepnoy” Sanctuary very few people ensure conservation of a large number of animals. We are confident that materials filmed at the Sanctuary are the best visual documentation of the saigas for a mass audience that currently exists, and it was made possible by the selfless work of “Stepnoy” Sanctuary staff – a small group of people, fighting a huge battle.

We are sure that materials filmed in “Stepnoy” Sanctuary, where Ben and John would like to return one day, will enrich the film series dedicated to wildlife, while we look forward to the film appearing on Netflix.

--VK

READ: Protecting saigas in Russia’s Stepnoy Sanctuary

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