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Nature's Cleanup Crew

Examines the lives of the busy scavengers who live among us in our cities, recycling the mountains of waste our consumer society leaves behind.

A printer-friendly version of this page 54 minutes
SDH Captioned>>

Directed by Robin Bicknell
Produced by Robert Lang
Writer: Allen Booth
Editor: Bill Towgood
Cinematography: Derek Rogers, Russell Gienapp
Original Music: Eric Cadesky, Nick Dyer
Narrator: David Suzuki
A Kensington Communications Production in association with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, with the participation of ZDF/ARTE

"This communication about science is as vital as the science itself." Jennifer Hammonds, Sr Mgr, Education & Engagement, National Wildlife Federation
With the help of thoughtful and passionate scientists who have come to understand and love them, we find out what makes scavengers tick. We debunk myths about them. We ask...What adaptations have they evolved to do their job? What benefits do they provide to humanity? How can we humans work with them, so that they can do their job even better?

On Broadway in Manhattan, we see the tourist crowds from the ants' point of view, as a team of young entomologists discover how important they are to keeping the streets clean. In Berlin, we discover how scavenging foxes have adapted to survive in an urban environment—something they've had to do because they have nowhere else to go. In Toronto we hunt for the elusive opossum—the shyest scavenger of all—to find out how they help to make our cities healthier. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia we track the city's teaming population of vultures to find out how they protect people from deadly disease.

By the end, we may not all see nature's cleanup crew as beautiful creatures the way some scientists do, but we're likely to be willing to give them the respect they deserve.

Grade Level: 4 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2021     Copyright Date: 2020
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-66-6

"Taken on a global journey, we learn the critical role these creatures hold in the urban centers they call home. Nature's Cleanup Crew complements science topics like predator-prey relationships, biodiversity, and species decline. It allows students to see science skills in practice: designing and implementing investigations based on scientific inquiry, cause and effect relationships, and using technology to gather data. Indirectly, students see professionals collaborating to solve problems, struggling with complex issues, and using media to raise awareness. This communication about science is as vital as the science itself."
Jennifer Hammonds, Senior Manager, Curriculum and Instruction, Education and Engagement, National Wildlife Federation

"A global mass extinction event is well underway and so we humans must be better at coexisting with our non-human counterparts. This film highlights the critical importance of wildlife in our urban ecosystems. With a majority of humans living in urban areas around the planet, everyone should watch this film - particularly urban planners, city governments, and education programs of all levels. Biodiverse cities are 'happy' cities!"
Jason D. Luscier, Associate Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Le Moyne College

"Nature's Cleanup Crew reveals the hidden lives of critters in and around cities. This film is entertaining with a solid educational perspective that will engage students and the general public."
Mark Hostetler, Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida

"Scavengers play a key role in ecosystems. This film uses wildlife to highlight the important ecosystem service of recycling waste produced by people, and thus how people benefit from rats, Virginia Opossum, and the at-risk condor species around the world."
Tracy Rittenhouse, Associate Professor, Natural Resources and the Environment, Director, Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation Center, University of Connecticut

"This film is creatively shot and does a wonderful job of highlighting the often overlooked but very important role that scavengers play in nature and in urban areas. It presents tangible examples of ecosystem services provided by mammals, birds, insects, and even bacteria, who feed on the things humans leave behind. Perhaps most importantly, the film also gives good examples of how ecologists conduct the studies that lead to new understandings of the importance of scavengers and our dependence on them."
Travis J. Ryan, Professor of Biological Sciences, Co-founder, Center for Urban Ecology, Butler University

"An amazing documentary that teaches lots of useful facts...One really starts to have a better understanding for these animals."
Nick Wangersky, Hollywood North Magazine

"Nature's Cleanup Crew invites us to look into the important services that 'pest' species offer humans living in urban environments and how species like vultures actually help to reduce the spread of diseases. This is an important learning opportunity that reveals the underappreciated ways that animals work to clean-up after us and to make our lives healthier."
Jenn Smith, Associate Professor of Biology, Mills College

"Nature's Cleanup Crew is both informative and entertaining, presenting interesting examples of how species can provide ecosystem services in urban and surrounding areas. It shows the audience up close the important roles the foraging behavior of some commonly disliked and misunderstood species have, as well as how biologists, researchers and wildlife care workers go about studying these species. As an animal behaviorist interested in urban ecology, human-wildlife interactions and conservation, I really enjoyed this film and recommend checking it out."
Barbara Clucas, Assistant Professor, Department of Wildlife, Humboldt State University

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DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
DVD includes English SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.

Awards and Festivals
Animal Behavior Society Film Festival

Animal Behavior/Communication
Canadian Studies
Toxic Chemicals
Urban Studies
Urban and Regional Planning

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... more Reviews

"Humans don't always appreciate scavenger species who eat or remove the dead...A bit of ick is to be expected when looking at creatures that dine on dead things, but their contributions make them deserving of respect, protection, and occasional awe."
Maggie Knapp, School Library Journal

"Highly Recommended...For many of the scavengers shown in this film, it becomes abundantly clear that they play an important role in the food web. They keep our ecosystem free of the bodies of dead animals and plants by breaking it down and recycling it back into nature as nutrients. They play an important role in maintaining a healthy habitat. This is an important film about creatures and insects many of us are either afraid of or don't like. It also shows how important these same creatures are in cleaning up nature."
LaRoi Lawton, Bronx Community College CUNY, Educational Media Reviews Online

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