There's a whole mess of creatures out there who've barely survived extinction, some as mighty as the bald eagle, some as minuscule as the multicolored Delta Green ground beetle, and National Geographic sets out to show what's being or has been done to save these shrinking critters that humans threaten.

There’s a whole mess of creatures out there who’ve barely survived extinction, some as mighty as the bald eagle, some as minuscule as the multicolored Delta Green ground beetle, and National Geographic sets out to show what’s being or has been done to save these shrinking critters that humans threaten. Their importance is not only as species but as living chains of interdependence among all living things; an important issue, it has its moments.

Still photographers Susan Middleton and David Littschwager travel over 125,000 miles in their “studio” (a converted milk truck lugs their photographic equipment) all over the U.S. Their mentor is Harvard savant Edward O. Wilson, who puts things in perspective: “Species do not die of old age. Species are killed off, and when a species dies, with it dies this genetic history that can never be recreated.”

Why is this important? As Pulitzer Prize-winner Wilson suggests, “They’re part of us.” And we, as humans, are their chief enemy. The dense and the uncaring may miss the significance of his remark.

The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973 under Nixon, today boasts 1,000 on its list. Most impressive to see, of course, is the soaring bald eagle, whose eggs’ shells have been threatened by DDT.

Program shows how an unhatched egg’s transported to a lab, where’s it’s taped, repaired and hatched while a phony egg’s left in the nest. When a live eaglet’s dropped into the nest after the proper time, it’s a question (answered in the docu) whether or not the parents will accept the delivery.

Loveliest of the creatures being saved is the delicate Palos Verdes blue butterfly, preserved by ex-gang member Arthur Bonner of South Central L.A. The pale-blue beings are a soft wonder, and Bonner’s responsibility to his fragile charges is both touching and impressive. And a delight.

The nearly invisible ground beetle, living on the Sacramento River Delta, is discovered after a moment’s search. The golden trout survives in its section of the Little Kern Valley, while the Palos Verdes blue butterfly has begun failing because of urbanization.

The comfortable, amiable manatee may get a new lease on life. In its Florida habitat, its greatest danger is the motorboat’s blades that chop into his back, but it’s possible a sound device may help save them from fading away.

The customary excellent NGS tech credits help show the subjects in harm’s way and how environmentalists are struggling to extend the life forms. For those still asking why the manzanita’s a must, or the elusive black-footed ferret’s a necessity, it’s because they’re in connection with all life. And, as Wilson observes, when they die out, their genetic history goes with them. It’s a long good-bye.

America's Endangered Species: Don't Say Good-bye

Sat. (24), 8-9 p.m., NBC

Production

Filmed by National Geographic TV. Executive producer, Nicolas Noxon; senior producer, Teresa Koenig; co-producer, Geoffrey Little; series supervising producer/editor, Barry Nye; producer/director, Robert Kenner; writer, Ken Chowder.

Crew

Camera, Richard Chisolm, Paul Goldsmith; editor, Leonard Feinstein; sound, Ray Day, Keen King; music, Mark Adler.

Cast

Narrator: James Woods.
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