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‘Connectedness is so important’: Wildlife photographer shares stunning images, life lessons




When it comes to socializing, wolves, chimpanzees and bears aren’t that different from humans.

Ronan Donovan has captured images and studied the lives of these animals, from Yellowstone National Park to Uganda to the Canadian Arctic.

The biologist turned photographer brings his research and pictures to Jack Singer Concert Hall this Sunday and Monday.

It’s called Social by Nature and it’s part of Arts Commons’ National Geographic Live series. Donovan shared some of his thoughts with The Homestretch ahead of the event.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. You can listen to the complete interview here.

Ronan Donovan is photographer with National Geographic. (Submitted by Ronan Donovan)

Q: What kind of images are you sharing?

A: I am going to share a mix of social mammals, ranging from chimpanzees in Uganda, mountain gorillas in Rwanda and some wolves in Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic.

Q: You lived in Yellowstone National Park for a year documenting the lives of wolves. What was that like?

A: That was an incredible experience, my first assignment with National Geographic.

It was a long time to be in the field which allows you to have an access and intimacy with subjects that you can’t get on shorter assignments.

It’s a place that’s very hard to get images of wolves, because they are so shy to humans. It was a challenging assignment.

Q: Was it like that in Ellesmere Island?

A: No, it was the complete opposite.

Ellesmere has wolves that have basically neutral interactions with humans, so not negative. They are curious about us. They approach and allow you this proximity.

You can follow them all day, 24 hours a day, because the sun never goes down in the summer.

They would steal stuff of mine, pull up tent stakes, they would try and steal a camera and now and then. It was a very different interaction.

Q: What did you observe in their social behaviour?

A: Anybody who has a dog is aware of how sweet, kind, generous and intelligent dogs and canines are. Wolves are the same.

Everything is about the family, the pups and teaching them life lessons. They hunt everything from mice to small rabbits all the way up to bison. They have to learn that so it’s all about family teaching and close interactions.

It’s amazing to hear all the vocalization that goes on, the high-pitched whining, the excited squeals.

To see them in the wild is something totally special for me.

Q: Did you see any similarities to humans?

A: Absolutely. There are nuclear families, mom, dad and multi-generational offspring. Elderly humans and elderly wolves are the most respected. They carry the knowledge reservoir for that society.

There are also cultural differences, the way they hunt and interact, how they play, all those things are standards of all social mammals. The play is one of the things that we can relate to the most as humans, because of how much fun it is to watch but we also know how much fun it is to play.

It feels good to play.

Q: You also studied bears in Yellowstone, what stood out to you about their behaviour?

A: They are social for part of their lives. When they are with their mom, they are social for a couple of years. They go in the den together. You can imagine the giant bear pile for four or five months in the den.

As adults, they are kind of on their own. They communicate by scent. I documented this behaviour at a place called the ‘bear bathtub,’ is what we named it. Bears would come, sometimes four or five a day, have a drink and soak in the pool, but also leaving their scent for the other bears.

Socializing, but not in person.

Q: You have studied chimpanzees in Uganda, how do they compare?

A: Chimps are just pure emotion and reaction.

When they see something they get excited, they don’t think about it. They just full on do things.

It’s aggression, it’s play, all the things that humans do.

Q: What can we learn from these animals?

A: Connectedness is so important.

The idea of family and friendly ties are required to make it through life. Humans are the same. We can’t get by on our own.

It reminds us the importance of working together, teamwork, bonding, socializing and play.

All of those things that some people forget about or take for granted but those social aspects are so important.

Q: What goes into capturing that one special image?

A: People think I am patient but I am actually just super driven and stubborn.

Most of the time when I am in a waiting situation, it’s not like a zen, relaxed moment. It’s more like an internal spaz out, anxiety-ridden time, trying to figure out if I made the right decision being here as opposed to being over there?

Is it ever going to come? Is this project a total failure? All of that is churning in the back of my mind.

It can take weeks and even months to get the images I want. I was in Yellowstone for a year and got all the photos that were published in two weeks.

When it comes to socializing – wolves, chimpanzees and bears aren’t that different from humans. Ronan Donovan has captured images and studied the lives of these animals – from Yellowstone to Uganda. The biologist turned photographer brings his research and pictures to Jack Singer Concert Hall this Sunday and Monday as part of Arts Commons National Geographic Live series. 8:02

With files from The Homestretch


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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal




MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow




Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise




Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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