Do nature documentaries like Planet Earth result in greater conservation efforts?

Do nature documentaries like Planet Earth result in greater conservation efforts?The documentary “Planet Earth” is one of the most captivating and awe-inspiring documentaries to tell the tale of the circle of life. The highly-rated and award nominated series is an educational resource for nature enthusiasts and wildlife observers, and is also a source of travel inspiration for people who want to witness the show’s content in real life. “Planet Earth” drives a strong conservationist theme, but for all the resources thrown into these vivid documentaries, reports show a continued decline in wildlife numbers and wilderness area

Overwhelming Human Presence

As with any other film or show that highlights an exotic area, “Planet Earth” has the potential to increase traffic to already sensitive and diminishing habitats. According to natural history programme producer and presenter, Martin Hughes-Games, “These programmes are pure entertainment, brilliantly executed but ultimately a significant contributor to the planet-wide extinction of wildlife we’re presiding over.” As a fellow nature series presenter, Hughes-Games is aware of the amount of human involvement necessary to capture over five years worth of footage.

This is not to say we shouldn’t have or produce luxurious and carefully crafted educational documentaries, but the impact it’s having has shown no positive result. On the contrary, a 2016 Living Planet report found that from the start of nature documentaries in 1970, animal populations have dropped by over 50 percent, and by 2020, they are expected to drop by a total 67 percent. This correlates with rising human impact to the environment and continued use of unsustainable practices. More research found that constant human noise and presence is stressful for animals and deters them from residing in certain areas.

Dropping Numbers

Bringing attention to these endangered species and how they are affected by the human way of life is essential to prevent further damage. However, Hughes-Games suggests that, rather than understanding these animals are endangered, viewers might think the footage is easily captured by simply visiting these remote areas, where they envision large numbers of lions and giraffes roaming freely. This could result in increased traffic to wilderness areas by inexpert tourists who are potentially putting themselves and/or the animals in danger with their presence.

Rather than understanding these animals are endangered, viewers might think the footage is easily captured by simply visiting these remote areas, where they envision large numbers of lions and giraffes roaming freely

“Planet Earth” promotes a heavy conservation message, describing the gradual shrinking of natural habitats and reporting the decreasing number of various species. Still, without tangible plans and efforts to help the wildlife they film, this worthy message offers little in the form of conservation. Rather, “Planet Earth,” with their cameras and cameramen, simply take up more of their space and utilize the animals in staged scenes created in their own homes.

Conservation Efforts

Staged scenes are used to create the coherent stories produced in the “Planet Earth” series by setting the focus of each scene. The captivating close ups help piece together the story and allow it to develop effortlessly, which is crucial to the series’ cinematic value. According to StayNTouch, compelling images average 94 percent more views than any content without them. The picture quality combined with the identifiable stories of the animals’ lives are what make the series so gripping to anyone who cares about nature, animals and our planet.

There are several wildlife conservation groups that offer volunteer opportunities for individuals wishing to do their part around the world. Whether it is to help promote the survival of endangered species, or influence the health of the communities surrounding wildlife habitat, volunteering abroad has many benefits. These include things like the chance to make a positive impact in local communities, gain world experience, and participate in organized conservation efforts that are goal oriented. These efforts provide a chance for people to see wildlife with enough instruction to avoid causing harm to the animals or their habitats.

There’s no doubt that the Planet Earth documentaries are works of art that showcase how beautiful our world truly is. The documentaries’ intimate moments of life and death, and success and failure help promote thoughtful reflection of our place in the circle of life. However, without analyzing the true impact we have, the conservation effort is moot. As our presence increases, animal populations drop, and the magic of “Planet Earth” proceeds with uncertainty.

Shelly Bohorquez
Shelly Bohorquez is a writer and animal rights advocate based in Boise, ID. She has a BA in Communication from Boise State University, where she studied German and journalism. She enjoys traveling, photography and outdoor adventures. Follow her and her odd-eyed cat on Instagram @shemovesabstract

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