CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 3 . . . . October 1, 1999
"I'm breeding them so that we can put them back and then they're gone. They are there, they are established, they're successful, and I can stop doing it. I'll do something else . . . but first I want to get them undeniably established." Clio Smeeton.This is an unusual story. Unlike most of the other wildlife "champions," Clio Smeeton, of the Cochrane, AB wild life reserve, is not a biologist. Her parents, Miles and Beryl Smeeton, opened this reserve in 1972 in order to "give something back" to a wildlife they had enjoyed for years. The Smeetons passed on before any animals could be released back into the wild; their daughter, Clio, continued with their work, and the facility has provided 682 foxes for release.
Swift foxes are an interesting animal to study. They have never been affected by climatic changes; their destruction was brought about by the alteration of the grasslands ecosystem that followed plowing and animal poisonings. Swift foxes disappeared from Canada in the 1930s and were declared extinct in 1978. The remaining captive animals became the property of the Government of Canada. This has caused problems in two main areas: the Canadian government believes in translocation, the transfer of animals from their existing pockets in the southern U.S. to Grasslands Park instead of from captive animals; and government officials believe that hand-reared animals wouldn't survive in the wild. These two problems mean that Clio Smeeton has been forced to rely on donations and her own money to keep up her reserve. Swift foxes are released in sibling groups onto a ranch that provides a good release site with existing prey. Only time will tell whether Clio's animals are capable of surviving on their own, but she is willing to bet her own money on their success.
This video is beautifully shot with a musical accompaniment and lots of shots of foxes in all stages of life, but the main focus is on Clio Smeeton and her fight to continue the reserve's work. This video would be a valuable addition to a discussion about environmental trends and rules, as well as human intervention and changing ecosystems. Clio's language is clear and correct, as are the other voice-overs. An environmental unit can only be helped by the thrill of seeing animals being released back into their own environment.
Betsy Fraser is a librarian with the Calgary Public Library.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.