Susan Fleming, director of “Remarkable Rabbits”

Owing to the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing Stay at Home order, this was the second show I broadcast remotely from home, with in-studio help from my friend/WMNF music director Lee “Flee” Courtney, featuring live and recorded elements

Susan Fleming—a filmmaker who’s been making movies for 30 years, and specializing in nature films for 20; her latest documentary, “Remarkable Rabbits,” was to air that night on the PBS series, “Nature”—confirms that she fits the pattern of nature filmmakers: As a kid, she loved being outdoors and felt a powerful kinship with animals and other critters. Fleming recounts her entry into film, and discusses some of the favorite docs she’s made, among them, “A Murder of Crows,” which explored the world of these smart and sophisticated birds, including remember specific humans (and holding a grudge against some), and “Moose: Life of a Twig,” which profiled a mother moose and the first year of life of her calf. Regarding her new film, “Remarkable Rabbits,” she explains the impetus was that her “farm-sitter”—who looks after Fleming’s property and animals when the filmmaker travels—has a rabbit, named Pancakes, who she brings everywhere. Pancakes made friends with Fleming’s sizable dog, Milo, who towers over the rabbit—Fleming was struck by this relationship, and that, improbably, Pancakes was in charge. That served as a jumping off point, Fleming says, for considerable rabbit research, learning there’s an enormous number of breeds, all tending to be highly specific to their habitat. She particularly cites the Swamp Rabbit, the largest cottontail anywhere, found in the swamps and wetlands of the southern U.S., and—spoiler alert!—can swim. “Remarkable Rabbits” represents the first time Swamp Rabbits have ever been filmed swimming. Although the Swamp Rabbit population is robust, Fleming discusses how other species of rabbits are facing serious threats of extinction, an important aspect of her film, which shows efforts by two zoos to help restore the population of the New England cottontail. She also spends a few minutes offering observations about the rabbit show documented in her film—as I suggest in this conversation, the Westminster Dog Show has nothing on this rabbit-centric extravaganza, brimming with colorful characters and an array of distinctive bunnies, very much including the lionhead. Remarkable Rabbits” can be streamed on the PBS/”Nature” website through May 6. (https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/remarkable-rabbits-a2lqwt/21527/)

 

ALSO: I spoke with Rhonda Eldridge, president of Community Pet Project, which provides pet food to homeless and at-risk communities in Hillsborough County, and has significantly broadened its efforts in the wake of the expanding coronavirus impact. Eldridge and her battalion of fellow volunteers are offering pet food and other products and accessories—and even helping with veterinary bills—to a growing number of individuals and families. (https://communitypetproject.org, https://www.facebook.com/communitypetproject/)

COMEDY CORNER:  We didn’t step into the Comedy Corner today.

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.

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About the author
Duncan Strauss is the producer-host of “Talking Animals,” which he launched at KUCI in California in 2003, combining his passions for animals, radio, journalism, music and comedy. The show has aired since late 2005 on Tampa’s WMNF. Strauss lives in Jupiter Farms, FL with his family, including four cats, two horses and one dog. He spends each day talking to those animals, and maintains they talk right back to him, an as yet unverified claim.

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