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Thoughts inspired by 'Life'

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POSTED: April 15, 2010 8:44 p.m.
If you haven’t seen the Discovery Channel documentary “Life,” it’s worth a watch.  
The series is nature documentary making at its best. Critics have called it everything from an “amazing spectacle” to “nothing short of mind blowing” to  “jaw dropping.” And for once, they’re right.
Beyond the critics, I know folks who ordinarily wouldn’t watch five minutes of a documentary who are enthralled by this series, which took filmmakers four years and 150 expeditions to  complete.
Some of the things they’ve managed to capture along the way is beyond incredible. So, if you ever needed reinforcement in your belief that nature on its own is as enthralling as anything Hollywood can dream up or man can build, here it is.
But I admit to getting the blues after each episode.
Indeed, as lovely as “Life” is, there’s an air of sadness, an almost elegiac feel to the whole thing. It’s a sense that some of these species may not be long with us.
Maybe that’s just me, viewing the glass half empty. Except it’s not just me.
Among the species featured in “Life,” many are in trouble. In the U.S. the venus fly trap’s wild population on the North Carolina coast is dwindling because of collectors and habitat destruction.
In Central America, whale sharks and mutton snapper are threatened by overfishing.
In South America, the marvelous spatuletail - a quite rare and beautiful hummingbird -- is in trouble due to deforestation and hunting.  
All hummingbirds are beautiful, but these are really something to see. And scientists say there are less than 1,000 of the males left in the wild, perhaps no more than a few hundred.
Common chimps in Africa are falling prey to poachers, habitat destruction and disease. The western lowland gorilla population is being reduced by commercial hunting, the Ebola virus and habitat destruction.
The lion population is in trouble, in part because people are killing to many of them but also because the animals they feed on are disappearing. The lion is hardly alone in facing pressures. Other African creatures listed as vulnerable are cheetahs, hippos, sand sharks, Etheopian wolves and the Nubian Ibex, an incredibly agile ‘goat anetlope.’
And that’s not all. The Tiger is endangered because of habitat loss and poaching. A number of primate species which appear in the series -- orangutans among them -- are disappearing. The villain in much of it is habitat destruction. The cause is usually man.
Much of the Life show was filmed in exotic locations. But animals here at home face the same pressures. In Georgia, there are 60 species currently on the endangered or threatened species list -- encompassing everything from whales and turtles to birds and snakes and plants.
Nationally, more than 1,200 species are either endangered or threatened, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
That should not be a surprise. Drive down any busy road in Georgia and look at the road kill -- the armadillos or squirrels or deer or foxes or raccoons or possums that weren’t quick enough to get out of our way. Look at the acres strip.
 

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