Thursday, January 10, 2008

New National Geographic Special Explores Spectacular Landscape ~ January 30, 2008

It is the last great wilderness of its kind, a rare and endangered haven for some of Earth's hardiest creatures. Covering hundreds of thousands of square miles of Chile and Argentina, this wild place is known as Patagonia. In spite of its remote location, Patagonia and its wildlife are under pressure from the human footprint. (e.g. HydroAysen & Geocom-Kinross Gold Mines)

A new National Geographic Special, "Eden at the End of the World," shows the spectacular vistas and diverse animal life of the region while highlighting an innovative conservation model that will help preserve the pristine wilderness for future generations. "Eden at the End of the World," produced by National Geographic Television exclusively for Public Television, airs Jan. 30, 2008, 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT, only on PBS. The underwriter is Goldman Sachs.

For centuries, wind, geology and tempestuous seas kept Patagonia beyond the commercial reach of man. An astonishing array of wildlife flourishes in the region's nearly 347,000 square miles, including such birds as Magellanic penguins and Andean condors, land mammals such as the guanaco and puma, and marine mammals such as orcas and elephant seals.

Today, the Patagonian ecosystem is facing increasing pressure. Climate change affects both the western Andean glaciers and the tides that batter its southern shores. Sheep farming results in overgrazing and soil erosion, and beaver dams cause flooding that ravages forests. Man-made garbage, such as plastic filament, often injures wildlife. Changes in the landscape from waste and invaders mean that Patagonian flora and fauna may not survive future devastation without human intervention.

Is there any hope for saving this wild place?

There is: A revolutionary new partnership between business and conservation provides a more hopeful future for Patagonia. Global investment bank Goldman Sachs has partnered with the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society to create Karukinka, a nature reserve of more than 700,000 acres on the island of Tierra del Fuego. Karukinka, which means "our land" in the language of the Selk'nam people who once lived there, contains unique and spectacular native flora and fauna. At the epicenter, where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans collide, Karukinka is a microcosm of the environmental forces at play throughout Patagonia.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Goldman Sachs worked with the government of Chile to obtain support for this nature reserve and created an advisory council that includes some of Chile's most distinguished experts from the business, scientific and political sectors. Together, these partners are working with the local community, conduct scientific research and promote sustainable development of ecotourism. This public-private partnership is as unique as the land it protects and serves as a new conservation model for saving the last of the wild, in Patagonia and beyond.


The continuity of life contrasted with threats to survival make this program an important vision of what might happen to this once-pristine region if threats are allowed to continue unchecked. Boersma says: "This is one of the spectacles of nature... But there's a lot less now than before, because we're using the ocean so extensively..." Campagna emphasizes, "If we're going to create protected areas, we better do it in the next five to 10 years." Fortunately, Karukinka has already been created. Its genesis and ongoing success provide a remarkable template for other corporate-conservation partnerships that can help save wild places like Patagonia from environmental devastation.

Producer of "Eden at the End of the World" is Doug Bertran; executive producers are John Bredar and Keenan Smart, who is also head of the National Geographic Natural History Unit.

National Geographic Television (NGT) is the documentary TV production arm of the National Geographic Society, known around the world for its remarkable visuals and compelling stories.

Hereis the full story.