Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Natalie Portman, Jack Hanna
Showcase Rwandan Gorillas

Special to Air this Fall as Part of Emmy Award-Winning Series Saving A Species

The recent mysterious killings of four critically endangered gorillas in the Virunga National Park, bordering Rwanda and Congo, sent shockwaves through the international conservationist community. In a twist of fate, Animal Planet recently filmed a television special documenting gorillas from this region and their desperate struggle to survive.

Golden Globe winner and Oscar®-nominated actress Natalie Portman (Closer, Garden State, the Star Wars trilogy) partnered with Animal Planet to appear in this new special as part of her recent travels to Rwanda. There, she witnessed firsthand the plight of the diminishing number of gorillas in the region shortly before the recent accounts. Welcomed by the Rwandan government, Portman and animal icon Jack Hanna spotlight the gorillas – who so closely resemble humans – in an international effort to bring attention to their dire crisis. GORILLAS ON THE BRINK, slated to air this fall as part of Animal Planet’s Emmy® Award-winning series SAVING A SPECIES, is an intimate journey through the mysterious lives of these endangered primates.

“Meeting the gorillas is indescribable, and I was unbelievably honored to be in their presence. It’s absolutely critical that we do something to save these beautiful animals. I hope the television special will help make the world take notice before it’s too late,” said Portman, who is a life-long environmental advocate and animal lover. “The Rwandese people, their beautiful land, and my experience with the gorillas have made a huge impact on me.”

Hanna, television personality and director, emeritus, of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, was Portman's guide during the once-in-a-lifetime trek through a nation trying to heal and overcome its infamous history. Portman also took part in a gorilla-naming ceremony while in Rwanda and helped name an orphaned baby gorilla. With less than 700 gorillas left in the wild, the documentary shows how the government and people of Rwanda are fighting to keep this revered population from diminishing even further.

Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet & Discovery Kids Media, also journeyed to Rwanda for the gorilla-naming ceremony with Natalie and the crew. “We're rushing the show through production to bring the gorillas’ story to the attention of the world as quickly as humanly possible. The heroic efforts of the country of Rwanda and the many trackers, guides, conservationists and vets who are striving to make a difference deserve to be seen.”

SAVING A SPECIES: GORILLAS ON THE BRINK is produced for Animal Planet & Discovery Kids Media by Spectrum Productions. Guy Nickerson is the executive producer for Spectrum Productions, and Melinda Toporoff is the executive producer for Animal Planet and Discovery Kids Media. The SAVING A SPECIES series won an Emmy Award for its most recent special THE GREAT PENGUIN RESCUE with Elijah Wood.