First Light Productions

investigative journalism


Posted on February 12, 2017


Eye of Beluga whale. Photo: Eric Kilby/Flickr

In 2005 off the California coast,  a female humpback whale was found entangled in nylon ropes used by fishermen. As recounted by Frans de Waal in The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society: “The ropes were digging into the blubber, leaving cuts. The only way to free the whale was to dive under the surface to cut away the ropes.” The divers spent an hour at the task, an especially risky one given the sheer strength of the animal’s tail. “The most remarkable part came when the whale realized it was free. Instead of leaving the scene, she hung around. The huge animal swam in a large circle, carefully approaching every diver separately. She nuzzled one, then moved on to the next, until she had touched them all.”

Thanks: Aeon

Why? Because they can

Posted on February 2, 2017


Waste from coal mining yields toxic levels of arsenic, cadmium, selenium, etc., which translates to “you can’t drink the water.”

The Senate just voted 54-45 to kill a recently enacted “stream protection rule.” If Trump agrees, coal companies can return to their old practice of dumping the detritus left from the mountains they blow up into streams.

Eight years in the making, the legislation — which tightens environmental restrictions on companies seeking to open new mines — was passed just before Obama left office,

Congress’s action won’t put miners back to work. But it sends a message. The kind of thing republicans call governing.

Coal companies have already buried over 2,000 miles of streams that once-upon-a-time provided drinking water for entire generations.

Full story at Vox.

Instagram from Standing Rock

Posted on November 30, 2016

From a photographer in the heartland.

“Quick story from last night. I had just gotten back to the front lines after the medics treated me for getting tear gassed…the first time.

Standing Rock police action Nov '16.jpg

As I’m framing up a shot of the riot police lineup through my viewfinder, I hear a loud pop in the distance. The woman standing beside me, probably half my size, goes down hard. I thought she slipped on the ice (the pavement had frozen by that point due to hours of being sprayed by law enforcement’s water cannon in 20 degree weather). She wasn’t responding. It wasn’t until I found this next to her body that I knew she didn’t slip – she was shot. Moments later, she woke and became hysterical – rightfully so. Turns out, the 40mm sponge round got her right in the head. THE HEAD. As the volunteer medics pulled her away through the chaos, I looked in the direction where the shot came from. There I saw him, a cop with full face head gear, holding the riot gun that took the woman out. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I know he saw mine. He raised his hand, and started shaking his finger at me. It was in that moment that I realized he actually missed his shot, because that round was meant for me. Another photographer asked if I was alright. I told him what happened, and he wasn’t surprised. He revealed that press working alongside the ‘Water Protectors’ have been targeted by law enforcement since day one of the movement. They’ll arrest you, “lose your memory card” in jail processing, and your story’s gone. Or the quick version, try taking me out with a 40mm sponge round from a riot gun. A cop who’d rather see me be knocked unconscious than to publish a story – I’ll be honest, it shook me to my core. The only problem for him, it just validated how important this story really is. And because of that, I’ll continue telling it to the best of my ability. A word of advice to the next guy who tries to take my ass out. Save your ammo, because my shot will always be more powerful than yours.”

Courtesy: honeyrockdawn


Posted on October 17, 2016

How low do the numbers have to get?

white rhino photo-Stirton NatGEo.jpg

Only three Northern White Rhinos remain. Photo: Brent Stirton/Nat Geo

Alas, CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), long subject to politics, seems to be slipping further down the rabbit hole. Would love to know the full story behind this latest fiasco in Johannesburg.

Thanks:  Fight for Rhinos.

Desperate Fight for Rhinos

Posted on October 9, 2016


Dr. Cooper

“This must be one of the most brutal fortnights yet in the history of the rhino poaching war, in our province. At least 14 deaths were discovered in various protected areas in as many days. (I can’t go into detail at this time but it’s getting even more savage, as if that’s possible.)

Yesterday honestly rates as one of the lowest points in my life as a wildlife vet, pretty much an emotional breaking point – but it’s not the first time; it’s something that is happening far too often. I don’t think it is possible to explain to somebody who hasn’t experienced this nightmare, what even one death scene does to you. It’s traumatic and haunting, and cannot ever be erased from your mind. I’ve attended over 400!!”wildlife vet Dave Cooper


Rhino graves

 The slaughter is real, the poachers are relentless.

This Boots on the Ground video  shows efforts being made to save them.


Boots on the Ground video GRAB.jpg

Boots on the Ground freeze

Via: Fight for Rhinos

A Word A Day on Animals

Posted on September 26, 2016


with Anu Garg

San Antonio elephant.jpg

San Antonio zoo

This summer I went to the zoo.

I love museums and gardens and parks, and visit them often. But there’s one place here in Seattle that I had never been to. The zoo. A zoo is a prison for animals who have done no wrong and I prefer not patronizing such a place.

One of the organizations where I teach had a volunteer appreciation party. They held it in the zoo. So I went. While it was enjoyable to meet other volunteers and chat and eat together, the zoo part of this was not pleasant.

You could see birds caged in tiny spaces, flying around in circles, showing typical neurotic behavior that anyone who is unjustifiably imprisoned for life would show. Bears, three of them, confined in barren concrete and glass enclosures. And much, much more.

Until about a hundred years ago, it was considered just fine to showcase in cages humans captured from faraway places. The same justifications — education, entertainment, research — were used that we use today to imprison sentient animals. A time will come when we’ll see imprisoning animals for life with the same horror as we have for the idea of human zoos.

Until then, enjoy this week’s words that have animal origins. In some cases the origin is obvious, in others not, but no animals were mistreated in producing this week’s words.




noun: A supporter or subordinate, especially one who engages in illegal activities for a powerful boss or criminal.

From Old English hengest (a male horse) + man. Earlier a henchman was an attendant who walked or rode beside a prince. Earliest documented use: 1360.

Bad Science squared

Posted on September 25, 2016

Scientific research has been badly infected by commercialization and celebrity. An increasing amount of what is studied in the nation’s laboratories can best be described as junk science. A downward trend that has also affected the editorial content of scientific journals which have significantly lessened standards for peer review in a competition to publish studies that for all practical purposes seem to have no other value than as clickbait.


Here’s a typical example: a study recently released in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology. Two years in the making, the investigation was undertaken to test the hypothesis that food dropped on the floor for less than five seconds is “safe.”

Note: beware of watermelon.



Long Overdue for the Axe

Posted on September 18, 2016

There is no morally defensible reason on God’s good earth why the Wildlife Services Agency should exist.


This photo, provided by Gary Strader, shows three dogs attacking a trapped coyote allegedly as part of his work for the USDA’s Wildlife Services. (Photo: Gary Strader)

This photo, provided by Gary Strader, shows three dogs attacking a trapped coyote allegedly as part of his work for the USDA’s Wildlife Services. (Photo: Gary Strader)

The New York Times today spelled out the ongoing tragedy our taxpayer dollars are supporting.


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