A New Film Highlights the Plight of the Florida Panther
The story of the Florida panther is one of near extinction, followed by a dramatic rebound and a shaky status quo. According to wildlife photographer Carlton Ward Jr., who took this stunning photo, evidence suggests that at one point, there might have been as few as 10 panthers left in the wild, while estimates today put the population between 120 and 230. The biggest threat to the species’ survival is habitat loss: Because of development, panthers occupy less than 5 percent of their original territory.
Ward uses his photography to document the panther’s plight, and recently produced a film, Path of the Panther, that showcases the importance of wildlife corridors. The film—which has a starry list of producers, including award-winning actor, director and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio—is now slated for statewide theatrical release to more than 40 theaters this month, and will also air on National Geographic and stream on Disney+ this spring.
Written and directed by Eric Bendick, Path of the Panther has received top awards from multiple film festivals, including the Jackson Wild Ecosystem Award, Mill Valley Film Festival’s Active Cinema Audience Award, Wildscreen’s Impact and Production Team Awards, and the New York WILD Best Conservation Film Award. In Florida, it won Audience Awards at the Florida Film Festival and Naples International Film Festival, and was awarded the Golden Conch for Best Florida Feature out of the Key West Film Festival.
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