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Extinction in Progress    cover photo

Extinction in Progress 2014

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Green Planet Films, PO Box 247, Corte Madera, CA 94976-0247; 415-377-5471
Produced by Jürgen Hoppe and Dr. Blair Hedges for Caribemotion
Directed by Jürgen Hoppe
DVD, color, 88 min.

Middle School - General Adult
Endangered Species, Natural History, Wildlife Conservation

Date Entered: 11/05/2015

Reviewed by Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State University Libraries, Bowling Green, OH

The tropical forests of Haiti have been depleted by deforestation to supply charcoal, a traditional inexpensive fuel source, to the Haitian people. The forest cover has been reduced from 30% in 1940, to 10% in 1970, to less than 2% today. The remaining forest cover, on mountains to 8800 feet, hosts remarkable plant and animal diversity including endangered species. No other country has more amphibians threatened with extinction.

Dr. Blair Hedges of Temple University leads an experienced crew to collect endangered highland frogs for the Philadelphia Zoo. The crew is inserted by helicopter within hiking distance of old growth tropical forest in order to collect amphibians in the Macaya National Park and the Massif de la Hotte at night by flashlight. The filming of the crew locating, uncovering and collecting the amphibians and reptiles at night is very exciting. At altitude, the crew’s endurance is tested by the lower oxygen level and rugged terrain and further pestered by insects while they seek to collect their prey by artificial light. The result is an extraordinary film experience. Over three years, the Hedges team has discovered almost 50 previously unknown species of frogs and reptiles in Haiti.

Since there is little hope of obtaining sufficient funding to preserve the remaining wild areas from eventually being harvested for charcoal, the Philadelphia Zoo hosts an endangered amphibian breeding program with hopes of reintroducing highlands frogs to Haiti if sufficient habitat can be reclaimed in the future. Similarly, DNA samples of endangered amphibians and reptiles are preserved in a cryogenic lab at Temple. The filmmakers take care to showcase this aspect of the preservation effort as well. Views of the breeding program and cryogenic lab are accompanied by descriptions of the technology involved and interviews with the zoologists and technicians working in the programs.

Extinction in Progress is highly recommended. This is a comprehensive view of what is necessary to preserve biodiversity in Haiti. The efforts of the Haitian government, the Audubon Society of Haiti and the programs at Temple and the Philadelphia Zoo have little hope of successfully conserving Haiti’s remaining wilderness areas unless the nearly insurmountable problem of Haitian poverty can be solved. The charcoal trade, along with isolated subsistence farming in the forest may be the only means of making a living in this impoverished nation. Though the impacts on Haitian biodiversity are recognized, there is no condemnation of the folks who can do no other in order to survive.