________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 14 . . . . March 17, 2000

Champions of the Wild Series.

Christian Bruyere & Ian Herring (Producers, Omni). George Johnson (Producer, NFB). Michael Chechik (Executive Producer, Omni).
Montreal, PQ: Omni Film & the National Film Board of Canada, 1997.
25 min. each, VHS, $39.95.

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.
Review by Joan C. Simpson.

*** /4


Part 1: Sharks.
Jack Silberman (Director)
Order Number: C9197 096.


Part 7: Lemurs.
Chris Aikenhead (Director).
Order Number: C9197 105.


Part 13: Orangutans.
Jack Silberman (Director).
Order Number: C9197 098.

These three videos about endangered animals have been shown on Discovery and Animal Planet. Each follows a similar format which includes a brief dramatic opening designed to engage the viewer's attention. This segment is followed by a number of images from the series and then the title. All of the videos place approximately equal emphasis on the animal and the scientist (the champion) studying the specific animal and the scientist's efforts at preservation of the animal species. Although many details of the animals' lives are related, the focus is on their unique features, particularly those that relate to environment and the threats to their survival. Information on the scientists reveals how they came to be involved with their particular animal. The scientists are shown engaged in conducting experiments and collecting data. Narration is provided by the scientists and by an off-screen narrator.

image Sharks has the least species specific content, perhaps because the topic is so broad. The objective of Dr. Gruber is to destroy the Hollywood image of the shark and to create a respect for the creature. His repeated statement that the shark is not "the death fish from Hell" and the vivid image of the fins being hacked off a live shark may make this video unsuitable for young viewers. Dr. Birute Galdikas's intense affection for the orangutans is demonstrated as she carries young orangutans and berates people for the destruction of the rainforest. The human-like life cycle and eating patterns of the orangutan are featured. Dr. Lisa Gould demonstrates an understanding of the plight of the people of Madagascar and the lemur in her statements of the reasons for the destruction of the lemurs' habitat. The matriarchial social structure and feeding patterns of lemurs are featured. The videos also provide periods for quiet observation when live-action images are accompanied only by natural sounds or unobtrusive background music.

The sound quality is excellent. The varied (close-up, distant, wide angle) images are of high technical quality. In Sharks, which features Dr. Sam Gruber and Canadian photographer Tim Calver, still images are interspersed with live action. The videos are accompanied by a helpful summary of the video, pre- and post-viewing questions and three related Web sites.

Any one of these videos would be an effective introduction or conclusion to a unit on endangered species. They could also be used to explore how animal behaviorists work.


Joan Simpson is the teacher-librarian at Dalhousie School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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