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Keeper of the wilderness

 

The film Keeper of the Wilderness is the story about the rare population of bears living in remote wilderness at the heart of the Slovak part of the Tatras. Here, in Tichá and Kôprová valleys, the conservationist and filmmaker Erik Baláž spent 15 years of documenting the life of these exceptional animals to eventually, together with Robert Rajchl, bring testimony about their life in true wilderness.

For many centuries, bears roamed all over Europe, but with the expansion of civilisation their natural habitat has progressively diminished. They began to retreat to mountain enclaves inaccessible to humans, where they could live safely and freely.

The results of long-term observations are not only detailed insights into daily life of bears, but also revelations that disprove many myths.

Amid ancient arolla pines we can see, how bears are feeding on their favourite fruit – blueberries. The camera captured a bear mother with three grown-up cubs. However, danger lurks on them in the form of a dominant male. He is trying to kill some other male’s cubs to later father his own ones. In the fascinating light of evolution, however, the death of cubs is a necessity ensuring balance between the number of bears and food availability.

We can see, how the change of season affects the lives of bears and other animals, be it the chamois in the mountains or the rare woodgrouse in the forests.

But most of all, during Erik’s long observations in the Tatra valleys, we can see that he is still mesmerized by the bear, an animal, which held its place in the heart of the man since the dawn of history. Despite the encroachments of the 21st century in Europe, the bear is still the master of Slovak land and the “keeper of the wilderness”.

Erik’s efforts and the help of his nature protection supporters will ensure that it remains that way.