Big crowds turn up in Whitehorse for debut of documentary on Porcupine caribou

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Big crowds turn up in Whitehorse for debut of documentary on Porcupine caribou

Around 300 people in Whitehorse came out to support the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd's calving ground at the debut of the new documentary film Camera Trap on Tuesday night.

The film, by Marty O'Brien, documented photographer Peter Mather's trip to the calving grounds. According to a photo census done in 2013, the herd had an estimated 197,000 caribou. Mather said they have approximately 40,000 calves a year. They go to a small piece of land in Alaska to have calves. 

The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has been fighting to stop oil drilling on the land for 40 years.

Mather says caribou are important to the Gwich'in, but with U.S. President Donald Trump changing protective legislation, the "Gwich'in are now important for the caribou."

Mather takes pictures of the caribou in the hope that the photographs will create an emotional connection with people.

"A simple image can make a big difference in the world," he says.

After the film, Vuntut Gwitchin citizen Jeffrey Peter stood in front of the crowd. He said he doesn't usually get up in front of people to talk, but he had a message.

"Some places are sacred. It's too important to risk losing, at this point in our human history, when we've already exploited so much."

Pauline Frost, the Vuntut Gwitchin MLA from Old Crow, Yukon, told the crowd that she's in the position because it's necessary for "someone to speak for the caribou."

Mather says if people want to help, they can donate money to the Gwich'in Steering Committee, which raises money to fight big oil companies in Alaska. He also said people can write to the government, or join one of four expeditions he's organizing to the calving grounds next summer.

Mather's hoping filmmakers, writers and artists join the groups. He wants "an army of artists to tell the story of Vuntut Gwitchin and caribou."

Correction : A previous version of this story said the herd of 40,000 caribou migrated to the calving grounds. In fact, there are about 200,000 caribou in the herd and 40,000 calves are born each year.(Nov 22, 2017 1:31 PM)