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Local group raises awareness of waterways, animals

Saving endangered animals from extinction for future generations and educating people on how they can help is the mission of the nonprofit Krewe of AWE (Awesome Wildlife Effort) and its AWEnews.TV.

Founded in November 2014 by board members Charles Marsala, Vincent Trombatori and Teryl Flettrich, the group adopts endangered wildlife, promotes environmental conservation to preserve habitats of native and endangered species worldwide, supports local groups and sanctuaries that preserve endangered species and works on state legislation to protect endangered species.
“We’re unique,” Marsala said of the AWE group as compared to other animal preservationists. “We focus on getting laws passed.”

AWE is also visible in the community. In tandem with the worldwide Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, AWE marched in the French Quarter Oct. 3. The krewe also participates in carnival parades.

4-part info series on WLAE
The Krewe of AWE has produced a four-part variety series to create an awareness of why it is important to save species at-risk. It is scheduled to air locally Nov. 13 and 27 at 8 p.m., and Dec. 9 and 11 at 8 p.m. on WLAE-TV.

Each episode is 30 minutes followed by an hour documentary on African at-risk species produced by Dereck and Beverly Joubert.  In-field footage was shot and produced by Joey Harmon, and in-studio work was done by William Hill, Marsala said.

The first episode has interviews with Bonnie Poirier and her St. Francis of Assisi ministry; artist Anne London; a discussion on the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone and Tulane University’s $1 million challenge to solve the dead zone caused by nitrate run off from the Mississippi River; and Tiger Creek sanctuary in Texas. The Joubert film “Last of the Lions” follows.

Poachers after ivory
Episode 2 will include an interview with U.S. Wildlife and Fisheries office detailing its “ivory crush” to drive home the reason why people should care about poaching; the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation; a piece on Youth 4 African Wildlife and their film on rhinos; artist Max Bernardi, who is producing a 32-page coloring book for AWE (coloring pages are on website); and the Global Wildlife Center in Folsom. The Jouberts’ “Rhino Rescue” film will follow.

“This isn’t an African problem,” Marsala said. “It is an American problem, because people want ivory trinkets on their dining room table and to wear as jewelry. Ivory is a status symbol in America.”

“The United States is often the middle man for ivory, and terrorists use the money to buy ammunition,” Marsala said. “When you mess up the species or the food chain of elephants, it also affects the environment,” he said, since elephants don’t digest well what they eat and drop seeds from plants they eat, which is food for other animals. The seeds also grow into trees.

Episode 3 will feature the Krewe of AWE and its endangered wildlife adoption program; artist Katrina Brees who builds endangered species bicycle floats for the krewe to ride in Tucks and Corps de Napoleon parades; Friends of Grand Isle’s Lecta Bourgeois and former Ringling Brother elephant trainer and Audubon Institute employee Joey Ratliff, followed by Joubert’s film “Elephant Reflections.”

Episode 4 will feature Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni whose city is surrounded on three sides by water and how he deals with animal control issues and uses art to educate citizens; outdoor installation artist Hernan Caro; a  piece on Chimp Haven in Keithville near Shreveport; a sanctuary piece on the Gulf Restoration Network; and discussion of the global anti-poaching bills U.S. Senate Bill S-27 and House bill HR 2494.

In each episode, Marsala said a connection could be made directly with Pope Francis’ thoughts about the environment in his encyclical “Laudato Si.” For example, when he interviews Bonnie Poirier in the first episode, she spells out the love of nature of St. Francis. Pope Francis’ discussion on the loss of the forest has a connection to the loss of habitats for primates and elephants in another episode.

“Through interviews that are ‘Local to Global,’ we educate and re-enforce the concerns that the pope mentioned in ‘Laudato Si,’ regarding the critical nature our planet is in,” Marsala said. “We seek to inspire and motive others to join Pope Francis’s calling to us for dialogue, education, policies and action to save Mother Earth.”

Memories for new generation
Marsala is a Jesuit High School graduate, former Boy Scout, Air Force base workspace designer, former mayor of Atherton, California, an Alaskan wildlife photographer, filmmaker, insurance consultant and financial advisor who has written a soon-to-be-published book “6 Steps to Financial Legacy.” He said each segment will feature wildlife leaders (politicians, representatives of Wildlife and Fisheries department); local artists; how endangered species impact people worldwide (i.e., Louisiana water issues, and what governments are doing); and local animal sanctuaries.

He and WLAE-TV’s vice president and general manager Ron Yager vividly remembered watching wild animals in their natural habitat on Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” when they were children in the 1960s and thought it would be a great idea to bring something similar to local television today to inspire people to care.

“If people see these animals that live in Africa here, they would bond and want to help save them,” Marsala said.

Marsala said there is a possibility the series will be expanded. If people are inspired enough to donate $10,000, AWE will have access to additional Joubert documentaries detailing their animal preservation efforts and the series may continue. He said Yager already has an idea for the second season.

For more information, visit

Christine Bordelon can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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