A team of biologists and filmmakers is 32 days into a 100-day, 1000-mile trek, via kayak, bike and foot, from the southern tip of Florida up to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia. And should you think that sounds like a bit of a pleasure cruise, check out this video:
The trip is an effort to explore, document, and ultimately protect the wildlife corridor that creates vital habitat for important species such as the Florida Panther—which is slowly rebounding after near extinction. Click here for a map of the current and proposed corridor.
Wildlife corridors are increasingly important area of focus for conservation efforts. Development and roadbuilding often squeeze and sometimes cut off natural migratory routes or habitat ranges. In Florida, this means that species often must traverse wide swaths of private land in order to do things such as seek a mate.
By sticking to the ground and using only their own locomotion, the team is experiencing the difficulty of moving through corridors. Often, they must cross private lands to make their way north. Unlike the animals, they must ask permissions when crossing private property, but so far people have been accomodating, reports Scripps News. The goal of this trek? The team will produce a documentary film to illustrate the existing wildlife pathways. Its larger goal is to work with government agencies, conservation groups, and ranchers and farmers to try to protect and maintain the existing cooridors -- both the federally-managed land and the privately-owned tracts that wildlife currently accesses.
Creating a wildlife corridor isn't a new idea and in fact some important steps have already been taken to ensure that habitat connects naturally through the state. The creation of an underpass under the section of highway I-75 that runs through the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge reduces the chances of death from a vehicle strike.
But continuing efforts to improve the health of Florida's natural environment are vital, as pressures from invasive species and the threat of sea level rise are immense. You can follow the progress of the expedition and learn more on Twitter and through Florida Wildlife Corridor website.
-- Mary Catherine O'Connor