Computers, hard drives and gadgetry fill much of our world, particularly in nations that have pushed the envelope of productivity and progress. With workers of all kinds constantly collecting information in every nation there are few areas left in the world that have not yet been given a full and exhaustive investigation. One of the only territories on the map that has been virtually unexplored until recently is Burma, also known as Myanmar. Back in 2011 researchers from the Smithsonian Institution, accompanied by a film crew from BBC and local scientists were finally allowed to dive into the forests and wilderness of Burma, exploring areas that had been kept off-limits for the past 50 years.
Burma is a neighboring country for Thailand and Laos, and sits just southwest of China. The country that is known by two names is also the second largest country in land size in Southeast Asia. The team from the Smithsonian Institution was undoubtedly ecstatic to be able to finally uncover and document areas that supposedly provided refuge for endangered or forgotten animals, such as Asian elephants, sun bears and tigers.
The television series will be debuting in May, entitled Wild Burma, and the Smithsonian crew certainly had dozens of hours of raw material to go through in preparation for the final product. Even though it has been about three years since the crew was in Burma, the full team was only granted two months of access to the uncharted grounds and areas of the country, which means they had to use any resources available to them to their fullest capacity.
The team was able to set stationary cameras in a number of Burma’s areas, where only 3 percent of a land that holds rare animals is protected by legislation. Much to the researchers’ and filmmakers’ joy, the pursuit to locate a population of Asian elephants was validated, fairly early on in the expedition. The success of the trip means change will surely be unfolding in Burma soon, as without the documented findings from this team of native scientists, BBC film crew, and Smithsonian Institution explorers the Burmese wilderness would have been far more vulnerable to the interests of destructive commercial powers and illicit traders.
This excursion is essentially the first of its kind, allowing those in the Western Hemisphere to witness the types of situations that animals in secluded or untouched Burmese areas face, whether the situations are good or bad. The passionate execution of educational work like this will hopefully only become more popular, as those who assist the plights of endangered species are able to wield the power of information more effectively than any other weapon. Viewers in the U.S. may even be provoked to contact Burmese legislation about their standing laws on wildlife and natural preservation.
The population of Asian elephants alone has been reduced to about 10 percent over the past 100 years. Even though such unfortunate circumstances face this beautiful animal, many other species within Burma’s currently untainted wilderness have been able to enjoy undamaged life due to the years between 1961 and 2011 when the country took no action in this realm.
With the team’s finalized results being broadcast to millions over television, the capacity for new legislation on behalf of endangered animals to be enacted appears to have greater potential than ever before. The presentation will premiere on Wednesday, May 7th, and be followed by the two succeeding Wednesdays, all on the Smithsonian Channel. For a group composed of BBC filmmakers, scientists and the Smithsonian Institution crew, a documentary-style TV series that shows how they explored the Burmese wilderness will be remembered for years to come.
Opinion By Brad Johnson