Located in Guaraqueçaba, on the Paraná coast, the Salto Morato Natural Reserve is the only Brazilian location presented in the documentary show Our Planet, released worldwide by Netflix last Friday (5).
Narrated by David Attenborough, one of the most well known naturalists in history, the documentary presents the natural beauty of our planet, with unprecedented images of fauna and flora. Grounded on science, the documentary shows the key challenges faced by nature in resisting the effects of climate changes and the impacts caused by man.
The Silverback Films and WWF production is eight episodes long and presents uncommon species and natural spectacles found in polar regions, oceans, deserts and forests. The key goal of the project is inspiring people to learn more about and preserve natural environments. The ultra-high definition images were recorded in a period of four years, across 50 countries.
In 2017, Brazil became part of the script, after 10 months of negotiation, to capture the prenuptial dance of the blue manakin (Chiroxiphia caudata), a bird found in the Atlantic Rainforest. Among the main habits of the species is the performance by males when courting females. In groups of four to six individuals in line, males rehearse and take turns performing acrobatics to impress a female. After the dance, the female makes her choice.
Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) Zoology Professor Lilian Manica had her first contact with the documentary producers in May 2016. As a member of the international Manakins Research Coordination Network, which studies species such as the blue manakin, she says the producers were looking for birds that expressed courtship behavior, with females being courted by males. “The blue manakin stands out from other species in the family because the dance is cooperative,” she states.
To record the rite, which is more common in spring and summer, the researcher recommended the Salto Morato Natural Reserve, maintained by the Boticário Group Foundation for Nature Protection. “We find blue manakins in the Atlantic Rainforest, mainly in the South of the country, but we believe that Salto Morato was the ideal location to record the documentary for being a totally protected area, where the biome is untouched,” she notes.
Biologist Israel Schneiberg, who accompanied the recordings, told us that the filmmakers were in Brazil from October to November. “We had expected to stay at the Reserve for 15 days, but due to the rainy season we had to expand the project. We managed to get footage of the blue manakins only on the 30th day, just as we were about to leave,” the UFPR doctoral candidate in Ecology and Conservation said.
For Natacha Sobanski, Conservation Project Analyst at the Boticário Group Foundation, the visibility of a documentary such as this one helps to create a desire in people to know and protect biodiversity. “Even though the blue manakin is a common bird in the Atlantic Rainforest, just few people know about them, and even fewer people know about this unusual courtship ritual. Showing such a bird in a global documentary not only highlights the biodiversity we find in Brazil but also creates a desire in people to know and preserve, as well as encouraging ecotourism and regional development,” she notes.
In an interview with British magazine TV Times, Attenborough highlighted the blue manakin ritual as one of his favorite moments in the documentary. “The bird has a complicated courtship dance. One of the most exciting things to see, since they form small teams, like trapeze artists,” he said.