Do we want to bulldoze and develop what's left beyond the boundaries of our parks and preserves? Or do we want to save the Florida Wildlife Corridor and provide a future for wildlife, ranches, farms, outdoor recreation, the Everglades, and clean water for all Floridians? If we want to save wild Florida, the Path of the Panther will show us how.
Florida's population is projected to grow from 21 million today to nearly 35 million by the year 2070. If development follows current trends, it will destroy 5 million acres of wildlife habitat, surround and isolate existing conservation lands, and cut off the Everglades from its headwaters in Central Florida and the rest of America beyond.
The alternative is to invest in protecting the Florida Wildlife Corridor — a statewide network of public and private lands connecting habitat from the Everglades to Georgia and Alabama. If we can save enough land to keep the Corridor connected, we will steer development closer to existing cities and away from our most sensitive lands and waters, providing a model to sustainably balance conservation and development.
The Florida panther — the last big cat surviving in the eastern United States and the state animal of Florida — is an icon of the Florida Wildlife Corridor that is showing us what we need to do to keep Florida wild. For the past four decades, the Caloosahatchee River has been the northern boundary to the known breeding range of the Florida panther. In that time, the panther population has rebounded from as few as 30 adults to nearly 200 today. But the requirements for the panther to recover from its Endangered Species status include establishing additional breeding populations of similar size in former panther territory in Central and North Florida. The habitat still exists. But can we protect it and keep it connected?
New Hope for Wild Florida
In November 2016, a female Florida panther was documented north of the Caloosahatchee River for the first time since 1973, giving hope for the longterm recovery of the species and the future of wild Florida. When I shared this news with Cary Lightsey, whose family has been ranching in central Florida since the 1850s and protected nearly 90 percent of their land with conservation easements, Lightsey said, "The panther is going to have to help us save Florida," adding, "because the panther will help people understand why we need to save ranches and other large lands.”
Ranchers and panthers are facing the same common threat — the rapid sprawling development that is consuming lands on which they both depend. By working with scientists and landowners to tell the Florida panther’s story, the Path of the Panther project is seeking common ground to balance the needs of a growing human population and the land protection needed to save wild Florida and keep the Everglades connected to North America.
How Your Support will be Invested
The Florida panther can inspire a statewide and global movement to save wild Florida, but only if we can share its story. With the help of the National Geographic Society and numerous partners, including the Florida Wildlife Corridor organization, I have been working full time on this project for nearly three years. Your support will help me and our team continue to capture unprecedented photos and videos of panthers in the wild and build essential content for the Path of the Panther communications campaign, including working with Girzzly Creek Films toward first feature documentary film ever made about the Florida panther.
Because the Florida panther is one of the rarest and most elusive animals on Earth, custom-made camera traps are necessary to reveal their behavior in the wild. A camera trap is essentially a studio in the woods where an animal triggers an invisible beams and take its own pictures. Our systems use dSLR cameras for photographs and 4K mirrorless cameras for video, both with professional lighting and customized housing designed to withstand the relentless heat and flooding rains of South Florida.
Panthers defend home ranges of up to 200 square miles — and area four times the size of Miami. Even is places where panthers are relatively abundant, a panther may only visit a camera site once a month or less. Three years of experience working with biologists has helped us select excellent camera sites. The only way to increase probability of success is to deploy more cameras. Currently we have 6 photo and 5 video camera in the field. Hurricane Irma destroyed several systems and two video setups were recently stolen by poachers. Your investment will help us recover from our losses and rebuild. We also need more cameras. As we work to capture awe-inspiring natural history footage for the film, we will design trail setups with three or more video cameras covering multiple angles. Below is an example from two cameras working together in the Corkscrew Swamp.
Our greatest need is support for our field team. Each camera system needs full service every month and needs to be visited and tested every two weeks. If we wait longer than that, curious bears, cattle, fallen branches, wayward alligators and flood waters prove to interfere more often than not. Maintaining cameras is a full time job which I have been doing myself with the help of interns for the past two years. Your investment in this project will help keep our field staff going, defray the cost of extensive travel into remote locations throughout the Greater Everglades and help with the expense of archiving and managing terabytes of digital photography and video.
Your support will also empower the ultimate purpose of the project — building a public movement to protect the Florida Wildlife Corridor. The money raised here will fund the field work and media management necessary to grow the Path of the Panther conservation campaign.
Using this story, we are on a mission to inspire our neighbors and policymakers to protect the Florida Wildlife Corridor. We have already received generous support from corporations, foundations, philanthropists, and other conservation organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Everglades Foundation, Palm Beach Zoo and the National Geographic Society. Your investment will take our storytelling to the next level of impact, helping build political will needed to unlock billions of dollars in real estate taxes for its voter-approved purpose of land conservation.
Kickstarter is a powerful tool to help us grow the movement needed to save the Path of the Panther. By participating in this project, you are joining a committed team of people who will become the core of a growing pubic campaign. As we combine our voices to share the hidden world of the Florida panther, we will become an unstoppable force for its protection.
DONATION LEVELS AND REWARDS
$25 THANK YOU POST CARD - Note from a Path of the Panther team sharing our gratitude.
$35 2019 FLORIDA RANCHES CALENDAR
$50 BEHIND THE SCENES DIGITAL NEWSLETTER - Keep up to date with Path of the Panther production with monthly updates and images from the field.
$75 5 X 7 PATH OF THE PANTHER PRINT MATTED TO FRAME IN 8 X 10 - An exclusive black and white print of a female Florida Panther.
$125 7 X 11 PATH OF THE PANTHER PRINT MATTED TO FRAME IN 12 x 16 - An exclusive black and white print of a female Florida Panther
$150 8 X 11 FINE ART PRINT OF THE PATH OF THE PANTHER MURAL BY DIANA GARCIA, MATTED AND READY TO FRAME 12 X 16
$250 8 X 11 FINE ART PRINT BY DIANA GARCIA AND 7 X 11 PHOTOGRAPH BY CARLTON WARD, BOTH MATTED AND READY TO FRAME 12 X 16
$500 12 X 18 SIGNED LIMITED EDITION PATH OF THE PANTHER PRINT
$750 18 X 24 FINE ART PRINT OF THE PATH OF THE PANTHER MURAL BY DIANA GARCIA
$1,000 16 X 24 SIGNED LIMITED EDITION PATH OF THE PANTHER PRINT
$2,500 24 X 36 SIGNED LIMITED EDITION PATH OF THE PANTHER PRINT
$5,000 JOIN A GROUP DAY TRIP TO THE FIELD WITH CARLTON WARD JR. AND PATH OF THE PANTHER TEAM. Also included: 16 X 24 SIGNED LIMITED EDITION PHOTOGRAPH ($1000 VALUE)
$9,500 PRIVATE FIELD TRIP WITH CARLTON WARD JR. AND PATH OF THE PANTHER TEAM (2 GUESTS). Also included: 16 X 24 SIGNED LIMITED EDITION PHOTOGRAPH ($1000 VALUE)
PATH OF THE PANTHER TEAM
Carlton Ward Jr. - Project Leader
Carlton is a National Geographic Explorer and photographer focused on Florida’s hidden wild. He founded the Florida Wildlife Corridor project in 2010 and has since trekked 2,000 miles during two National Geographic supported expeditions to advocate for the corridor’s protection. An eighth-generation Floridian, Ward has developed strong connections with conservation organizations, researchers, and landowners. He is now working as an ambassador for the recovery of the Florida panther, a plan that calls for conservation of hundreds of thousands of acres of ranchlands and forests and across Florida.
Tori Linder - Project Producer
Tori is a conservationist and Florida native from a 5th generation ranching family. She has worked with corporations, investors and governments on conservation and sustainable developments efforts across the globe. As producer of Path of the Panther, Tori is now working with colleagues and partners to tell the story of the Florida panther and in turn promote conservation of the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
Lisa Baylor - Creator
Lisa is an artist, designer and project manager. She applies her midwestern work ethic to creating a better Florida through art and outreach. Lisa manages the Carlton Ward Gallery and has contributed to multiple conservation projects over the past ten years with Carlton and the Florida Wildlife Corridor team, including publications, expeditions and major exhibits.
Lauren Yoho - Field Assistant
A native of Tampa, Lauren recently graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans. Her degrees in studio art and biology shaped her passion for photography and nature conservation. She joined Path of the Panther as a summer intern and is now working as a field assistant, primarily responsible for helping manage a network of professional photo and video camera traps she helped Carlton deploy throughout the Greater Everglades.
RESOURCES & REFERENCES
Path of the Panther is a conservation communications project in collaboration with the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit.
Risks and challenges
Trying to capture captivating images of one the world's most elusive big cats comes with inherent risks. The environment is constantly changing, timing is unpredictable and complications are to be expected. But we have learned to work with and embrace these uncertainties and are dedicated to ensuring this project is completed with maximum impact.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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