Web Entry for April 10th, 2007.
I am sometimes at a loss as to how I can use this Web Site
as a means to keep everyone informed as to what I am doing.
The problem has been that I don’t want everyone to know
what I am doing. There are a few people here in Russia that
I would just as soon were a bit in the dark about where I am
and what I am doing. I apologize to the rest of you who are
truly interested and have probably clicked into this page and
found no updates. I also have not been quite sure what to tell
you about what I am doing, because I couldn’t figure
it out myself, but here is an update. There are a few things
that you have to get by reading between the lines or later
when things are not in the delicate planning stage but really
happening I will be more communicative.
I have been back in Russia since the middle of March. My
friend Igor Revenko came with me for the first 10 days
as an interrupter
who understands my thinking and as an consultant. As you
might remember, Igor was the person who understood
the kind of place
that I was looking for to do my bear study back in 1994 and
then helped me get started at Kambalnoye Lake.
It has never been planned that I could go and see my bears
this trip. It is very expensive to do that because of very
high cost of helicopter. Anyway, the chances of seeing them
on a short visit would be slim and I had decided that before
I do any more work with rehabilitating bears, I want to know
that they will be safe.
My Russian assistant Irina Kruglakova had set up many meetings
for us. She has been keeping things together for me here
in Kamchatka while I have been stuck in Canada because
having the funding to come back here to work with the bears
after the documentary film was completed by BBC in 2005.
These meetings were for me to asses if there was anything
left for me to do in Russia. I have been having a difficult
getting lined out on the big job in the rest of the world
where there are bears, but before I could put undistracted
towards working well elsewhere, I had to either be able to
say goodbye to Russia or find a way to meaningfully protect
South Kamchatka where I have been working all these years.
I have felt that protection for this place is the most important
thing on my wish list yet to be done, but realistically it
was going to be all but impossible for anyone to achieve
What I have found out is that from most aspects the situation
seems even worse than when I left and that is saying a lot.
Thanks to Irina and Igor I have been able to meet with the
whole spectrum of people from the protectors to the poaching
brokers who have worked out the ways to get and market all
the illegal products.
On the poaching side, things look incredibly well organized.
From the protection standpoint everything is still very disorganized.
However, something has recently happened that I have never
seen the likes of before. There is a new person as director
of the UNDP. This name is Nikolai Maleshin who is as determined
as I am to find a way to do something meaningful to protect
Kamchatka. We have become good friends. Before he came to
this job, he was the director of several of the most
He knows a lot about what works in his country as well
as many of the pitfalls. Five of us, including Nikolai’s wife
Tatiana, have met many times at Irina’s home to have
a look at everything we can think of to come up with a strategy.
This is where I have to become vague. The problem is that
the Web is available to everyone and there are many
best interest lie in keeping the status quo ticking along
and I know that a few of these people are on my automatic
notification list. From a protection standpoint the status
quo does not interest this group in the least who I am working
with and to publicize our plan at this stage would be to
shoot ourselves squarely in the foot. I can say this,…..that
at the end of every hard working session, the guitar comes
out and we end the day with good food and Russia ballads
but me knows every word. Invariably at least half the people
in a room will play the guitar and it is passed around. Both
Igor and Nikolai are very good players and singers. Everyone
sings these songs like all their hearts were about to burst.
Despite the reputation of Russians, there is not a drop of
alcohol consumed by this group at these otherwise wonderful
Another thing that Nikolai and Tatiana, who both speak
and understand English very well did, was to translate
The Edge of Eden. There have been a couple of practice
showings at UNDP meetings where Nikolai personally
translates the narration
into Russian as the film is being shown. These have been
done as preparation towards putting on a big show on
for the public at a meeting room at the library that holds
400 people. Nikolai and I are sure that the public are only
resigned to what is happening to their salmon and bears because
they feel helpless at stopping it.... that if they begin
to become aware that there might be another way, they
behind a protection plan and begin to make it more difficult
for the poachers to live so care-free as they have been doing.
All this is a long way from any real, meaningful success,
but it is more, by far, than I expected that could
on this trip and there are a few more things that look very
I came here so that I could leave Russia knowing that I
had done as much as I could reasonably do as a individual
foreigner struggling with a complicated issue
in a complicated country. I needed a way to be done with Kamchatka, once
and for all, so that I can get on with trying to change the way bears and other
wildlife are managed.... as commodities.....and also change the idea that
bears in protected areas are animals that absolutely need to be feared. As you
might remember, I have been worried that the treatment they get in our so called
protected areas in various forms of aversive conditioning could be responsible
for creating the occasional dangerous bear, which is of course counter productive.
There is a lot to do in the world, bear wise, especially if this team here comes
up with a way to do something meaningful towards the protection for South Kamchatka.
So that is a bit of my story since I last wrote. I could
go on and on….
for instance about what seems to be happening in Canada and elsewhere with regard
to the documentary. The Edge of Eden, which was chosen by the DOXA Documentary
Film Festival in Vancouver, the most important documentary film festival in Canada,
to be the headline feature film of the Festival. 600 documentaries
were reviewed, 40 chosen for the festival, and of these, The Edge of Eden (90
minute version of BBC’s Bear Man of Kamchatka) was chosen for the honor
of being the headline feature! This event is on May 22 somewhere in Vancouver
and Jeff and Sue Turner and I plan to be there.
Don’t hold your breath expecting to see this documentary on TV in the near
future. BBC Worldwide is holding it out of that market for now. Instead, they
are making plans for the 90 minute version to be released in movie theatres around
the world, hopefully as successfully as March Of The Penguins was in 2005. There
are some careful considerations to be sure it will work for them before they
commit to spending millions of pounds for advertising and distribution into a
very tough market. If and when it happens you will have to look for it with a
different title. The Edge of Eden is a working title.
I am leaving Russia on April 20th to do a presentation
in at Bearfest in North Vancouver on April 26th
and there are more. I will be busy this spring.
Thanks for your patients with me for posting so few entries.