Environment

"If we care enough, wildlife can recover"

British filmmaker, Bertie Gregory, uses his lens to highlight the big issues affecting wildlife. Thursday, 6 December

By Oli Reed

Bertie Gregory wants to make people care about wildlife through his films. Enough to love animals and their habitats as much as he does, and enough to act when threatened species need protecting. The 25-year-old National Geographic Youth Explorer spent early-2018 on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, filming and photographing the abundant wildlife that makes the British Overseas Territory such a powerful conservation success story. “After Captain Cook discovered South Georgia in the late 1700s, early human settlers arrived and killed all but 400 of the island’s seals for their skin and fur,” says Gregory, who spent three weeks on the island filming his digital series wild_life  for National Geographic. “They also hunted its whales to extinction and introduced rats that decimated its birdlife,”

Today whaling is banned around South Georgia and the whales are returning. Seals are protected with a thriving population of more than three million, and the island was finally declared rat free in 2018 following the biggest rat eradication in history. “South Georgia is proof that if we all care enough, and invest enough time, wildlife can recover. It doesn’t all have to be bad news stories. We can protect these beautiful species,” says Gregory. “We spent three weeks on the island, surrounded by millions of penguins, seals and albatrosses who after everything that’s happened to them still don’t fear humans as predators. It’s the holy grail of wildlife filmmaking.”

The new five-part series is available to watch on National Geographic’s official website, YouTube channel and Facebook page, with filming set to begin on the next instalment in January – this time at the other end of the world. “We’re heading north this time, to Arctic Canada,” says Gregory. He’s particularly excited about meeting and filming the polar bears that occupy one of the world’s most remote, inhospitable and threatened environments. And he wants to make the rest of us care about them too.  

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