A documentary backed by the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, which chronicles the plight of the threatened desert tortoise, is set to premiere on KCET next week.
“Tortoise in Peril” will air on KCET’s Earth Focus on April 18, and on DirectTV and DISH networks beginning April 19.
The 30-minute film, which has won film festival awards and been recognized both at home and abroad, spotlights how habitat destruction, predators, diseases and other factors have reduced the tortoises’ numbers by up to 90 percent, according to the Living Desert.
The zoo supported the film financially and also launched a campaign in January to bring awareness to issues facing the desert tortoise, which netted the zoo a two-year, $100,000 grant.
“Our primary goals are to create an educational outreach campaign that can be used by any and all interested parties, working to help promote desert tortoise conservation in the Mojave Desert,” saidJames Danoff-Burg, the zoo’s director of conservation. “Specifically, we are targeting the general public, businesses and special interested groups who, with just a few small actions, can help save tortoises.”
The zoo’s “Time to Talk Trash” campaign centers on open trash containers attracting flocks of ravens, which prey on baby tortoises. The campaign involved erecting three billboards along highways in the high desert, and distributing bumper stickers to motorists traveling through the open desert areas, where the desert tortoises live.
“While ravens are a natural part of the Mojave Desert ecosystem, their numbers have increased 1,500 percent over the past three decades causing a huge imbalance in the ecosystem — and the desert tortoise is suffering because of this,” Danoff-Burg said. “Actions as simple as covering our trash will mean fewer ravens, and that will hopefully mean more desert tortoises.”