FORT LAUDERDALE — Longtime Tribe employee Reinaldo Becerra won an Emmy at the 39th annual Suncoast Emmy Awards Dec. 5 for a show he hosted and produced for WLRN-TV about Florida panthers in the Everglades.
“Big Cypress National Preserve: Panthers,” one of his six shows about the preserve, features Becerra with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner “Alligator” Ron Bergeron as they travel through the Everglades in search of the elusive and endangered predator.
Another show, “Big Cypress National Preserve: Florida Deer,” was also nominated for an Emmy.
Becerra’s short video won in the Interstitial category, which is comprised of short segments that are shown between longer programs.
“Winning the Emmy has opened a lot of doors,” said Becerra, 51, community outreach specialist at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. “Now we will get to do shows more often.”
Becerra, who has worked for the Tribe for 18 years, makes the seven- to 10-minute videos on weekends and days off. An animal specialist, he chooses the topic, writes the copy and produces the show with director Felipe Marrou. They air in Miami-Dade County Public Schools on WLRN-TV, which is owned by the Miami-Dade School Board.
“People like Rey; they can see the passion he has on camera,” said Marrou, who has worked with Becerra on projects for about 10 years. “He is very energetic and knowledgeable about animals. He’s a natural, knows what he’s saying and loves the animals.”
A native of South Africa who grew up in Cuba, Becerra became a master falconer at age 22 and used his birds of prey to control bird populations at airports in Cuba, Spain, Israel and on U.S. Air Force bases. In the 1990s he worked as an animal trainer and wrangler for a Miami TV production company and joined Billie Swamp Safari as an animal specialist in 1997, where he stayed for 14 years.
After working for Seminole Media Productions as a videographer for two years, Becerra joined the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, where he gives presentations about culture and wildlife, in 2013.
The award-winning show draws attention to the two biggest threats panthers face: loss of habitat and collisions with cars, which account for about 25 deaths per year. To illustrate the point, the show opens with a deceased panther in the grass off of County Road 833; it had been hit by a vehicle.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s there were only 28 to 30 panthers in the state; today there are about 180.
“We need more fencing and underpasses, like the ones on Alligator Alley,” Bergeron said in the show. “The panthers do use them. [U.S.] 41, [County Road] 846 and 833 are where they are killed.”
During filming, Becerra and Bergeron spotted a panther in the wild sitting at the edge of the woods.
“What a rare thing to film a panther; they’re so elusive,” Bergeron said. “They are one of the most endangered species on the planet. I’m honored to protect the wildlife and the beautiful Everglades, which is one of the natural wonders of the world.”
The show was shot on Bergeron’s ranch that abuts the Big Cypress Reservation and the preserve. Bergeron narrates the show and talks about the “Big Five” animals in Big Cypress: the bear, deer, hog, turkey and panther. He explains how the Osceola, or Florida, turkey is found only in South Florida and how hogs became loose after brought to Florida by the Spanish 500 years ago, acclimated to the environment and multiplied by the millions.
All big five animals can be found on Bergeron’s land.
Next on Becerra’s schedule is to produce a film about pythons in the Everglades and continue his work at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.
“I have passion for everything I do,” he said. “It’s my job and my hobby. Filming and producing shows is part of my fun and entertainment. The same thing goes for my work at the Museum; I’m happy going to a place I love to be all day.”