Q&A with Mireya Mayor

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Q&A with Mireya Mayor from Nat Geo Wild’s new series Wild Nights. New episodes of Wild Nights air Mondays at 9P et/pt.

What was the hardest part making the film/taking part in the expedition?
The hardest part about shooting a wildlife documentary in a big city is actually finding the animals. Rio is an amazing place to do such a project because this was at one point covered in Atlantic Forest. It’s now down to about 6%. But the animals that roam in the forest, you now find them in the city. It’s not that the animals come into the city, it’s that the city has expanded into their habitat. So I would say that the hardest part about working on this project is just finding wildlife. We’re in this big city, it’s an urban jungle and there’s definitely wildlife here and apartment buildings just a few feet away from caiman and capybara, the world’s largest rodent. It’s amazing, but it does take some pretty hard searching.

What do you think is the greatest threat to the natural environment of the world is today and why? 
I think the biggest threat to the natural environment today is definitely habitat destruction. Rio, Brazil is a perfect example of this. I mean this was at one point Atlantic Forest; it’s now been reduced to 6%, that’s all that remains. You have a lot of people, people need shelter, and they have to move into these areas that were once wild habitat. And that’s the largest threat to the animals in places like Brazil, is the fact that they are running out of home (territory). They have no place to go, they can’t survive.

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What ‘green’ initiatives would you suggest all governments of the world adopt now to save the planet?
One of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had during this shoot is going to the world’s largest landfill here in Rio. I know that we live in a very wasteful society. Our culture is one of wanting things quick and easy. Plastic water bottles on the go, Styrofoam cups to take coffee out. All of these things are just disposed of. It’s a lot easier now a days, when something breaks, to throw it away instead of fixing it. We also have the convenience of garbage being picked up in front of our houses. We put the garbage out and it just disappears—but the fact is, that garbage doesn’t disappear, it sticks around forever. And to see this gigantic mound of trash in what once were the Atlantic Forest and a lot of trash doesn’t make it the landfill, it’s spread around the city. If I could suggest one thing to people to be greener is to really be conscience of waste— of not buying excessively, of fixing things when they’re broken, of not drinking water out of plastic bottles, you know, recycling. These are all important and key elements in preserving a green future.

Describe your job role on the current project?
I think my role on this project is to give people a glimpse into Rio de Janeiro they may not really know about. Everybody knows about Rio’s beaches, everyone knows about the wildlife in Rio, but the human wildlife. I’m looking at it from a different perspective. I’m going into landfills; I’m going into areas where there’s large caiman, and predation, and the world’s largest rodent living right across from someone’s home. I’m sort of getting that back-stage pass and that closer glimpse into this amazing city.

Video preview: It’s mammals versus reptiles in this urban stand-off between a large city croc and a greasy Brazillian rodent.