Wild Migrations: Surviving the River Crossing

While documenting one of the most amazing spectacles in the Arctic: The annual migration of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, we came across situations that confronted us with deep emotions. Spending long periods of time in the wild is certainly unveiling, it allows you to see the world from many different perspectives.

It is hard to imagine how wildlife is able to thrive in places where weather can be unforgiven or food seems scarce, like the Arctic. And yet, some of these unthinkable places, carry amazing histories of survival.

It was late afternoon and I had been walking along the river bank to set up my stereo recording system. Walking close to the river, I passed by several river cracks that were quite deep and slippery. From the corner of my eye I cached a slightly movement from the inside of the crack.

To my astonished eyes, what I came to encounter wasn’t a fox as I had thought, it was a young caribou calf that had been left behind. My heart felt cold to the ground. 

 He didn’t move, or called, or anything, he just sat there, looking at me. He was probably exhausted after crossing the freezing waters of the river and fighting the current to keep up with its mother. 

After witnessing their struggle to cross the heavy waters of this river, one can only think, this little being should continue living after such an effort. He was so tiny, like most of his siblings, probably few days old.

And the thought of them already swimming across such waters, it really makes you wonder how amazing nature can be.

We as wildlife photographers, have never interfered with nature in any way. We are there to document. But I  felt a strong need to help, at least to give him the chance to continue his journey.

So I went and got Florian from camp to see what to do. The Calf was there, siting still. Florian went down and helped him up the river bank. Then he passed it onto my arms to carry it over to the open.

He looked at me with his big brown eyes, and I could feel his heart beating really really fast! This tiny little calf had probably never seen a human before, and was wondering what we were doing. But he stayed calm, it was a truly peaceful moment.

We could see the mother on the other side of the willows, running franticly searching for its calf. So we carried it over to see if they would find each other. And they did!

As soon as the calf called out a few times – yelp yelp yelp – the mother immediately came over. They touched noses and ran off together.

At the end of the day, we realized how much this animals have to go through to keep up with the herd. And then we thought, if any other people would see what we saw, they would’ve want to do the same: save the little calf.

Later on, we realized that saving a calf from the crevasses is only a symbolic message. It is more important to make people aware that preserving their lands, will allow them to roam freely over the Tundra.

This specific area, the Utukok Uplands, has been proposed for future oil drilling. Efforts are being made to oppose this, but we still need your voice to help prevent further exploitation.

Would’ve you want the little caribou to survive the river crossing?

If we really want this animals to continue thriving across the beautiful landscapes of the Arctic, oil development should not happen in this pristine areas. We need new clean ways to produce energy.

Say no to oil development in the Arctic! For more information visit the following websites:

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Über Florian

Als professioneller Naturfotograf widmet sich Florian Schulz dem Schaffen von einzigartigen Naturaufnahmen. Seine Bilder werden in Magazinen wie National Geographic, BBC Wildlife und GEO veröffentlicht. Schulz stammt aus Süddeutschland und verbringt im Jahr durchschnittlich acht bis zehn Monate im Feld, um mit seinen Fotografieprojekten gesamte Ökosysteme zu dokumentieren.

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Florian Schulz Productions
Naturfilmproduktion & Equipment Rental in Alaska und Baja Kalifornien, Mexiko.
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