Everybody’s been getting pretty protective of the earth lately, with all the topics in the news today, Climate Change this and Greta Thunberg that, but one way we can fix things with cleaning the Earth is understanding we aren’t the only ones that are doing it. In this great documentary hosted by David Suzuki, viewers learn about 4 rather different creatures referred to as ‘Nature’s Cleanup Crew’: The Ant, the Opossum, the Fox, and the Vulture. While each and every one of them are very different species, they all have one important task, and that is cleaning up the Earth. Sadly, it’s not easy for them to do their job either, as so much of the world sees them as nothing more but a bunch of pesky, well… pests. But they’re more than just that, as viewers learn in this short yet detailed doc.
Way out in New York, NY are a large majority of ants. Ants anywhere and everywhere. Ants in the gardens, ants in the pavement. Speaking of ants in the pavement, these are a special kind of ants called Pavement ants. Not exactly the most creative name but not many of them are (Red, Carpenter, etc). But what do pavement ants do? They eat the dropped litter and food scraps that so many people drop on the ground while eating outside near those food carts that are often seen around NY. A group of entomologists visit New York and try some experiments to see how the ants work and if they are much more hardworking and efficient then their large vermin carrying competitors: Rats. On another subject are opossums which are not as aggressive as one sees them. But they do have some pretty strong stomachs as they can digest bones and eat the infamous ticks that carry diseases. Psychologist Susanne McDonald performs a couple of research projects herself to figure out just how smart opossums are. More importantly, there’s even a wildlife rescue team that helps take care of some abandoned opossums until they’re old enough to fend for themselves. Now, to get to foxes. They’re a bit of an issue in Berlin, as people mainly see them as annoying. Personally, I blame a dumb trending video, but other reasons may be because they tend to dig into garbage for food. But really, foxes are helpful among the community of street locals. Not only do they have a habit of picking up pieces of dropped food, but they also take great delight in being pest control by handling the abundance of rats and rabbits. During this segment, researcher Sophia learns how to track a fox so she can learn what the fox does and where they live. Now we get to explore Ethiopia, and perhaps several other countries in the process. Researcher Evan explains interesting facts about vultures, who may be the most helpful when it comes to rotting flesh. Since not many animals get put underground in a box or burned to smithereens, sometimes their carcasses just rot in the open air and brew up viruses. But there’s always someone who will have something to eat. Lions, tigers, bears, oh my! But what about vultures? Yes, it’s true. Those birds tend to eat more than any other animal and they serve an interesting use in an Ethiopian town where the locals dump out food waste and animal remains to a small location where vultures chow down on as much as they please. But sadly, vultures are in trouble. Because in Africa, poachers are using an anti-vulture poison to keep them off their freshly hunted elephant. Another reason to hate people who hunt. Vultures are becoming an endangered species and already they seem to have a way of ridding the world of rotting flesh and deadly viruses.
All in all, Nature’s Cleanup Crew is an amazing documentary that teaches lots of useful facts, more than I have pointed out here already. It’s well put together, stories aren’t laced together like most documentary formats, making it easy to understand, and one really starts to have a better understanding for these animals and maybe not think of them so much as pests anymore. After all they seem to be doing a better job at cleaning up our act better than ourselves. Worth checking out, especially since it has the amazing David Suzuki in it. Nobody promotes a healthy Earth better than him.
Nature’s Cleanup Crew premieres January 31st on CBC at 9:30 PM and on CBC Gem.