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Heinz Sielmann Biography, Documentaries, Google honour

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Heinz Sielmann

Heinz Sielmann is a German biologist and film maker who was honored with a google doodle on 2nd June 2018, on his 101st birthday. He was popularly known as ‘Mr Woodpecker’ after the release of Carpenters of the Forest in 1954, one of his most best-loved films. In his honour, Google changed its logo in nine countries to a doodle, or illustration of him and nature.

Google Doodle

In 1998, Larry and Sergey, the oogle founders drew a stick figure behind the second ‘o’ of Google as a message to that they were out of office at the Burning Man festival and with that, Google Doodles were born. The company decided that they should decorate the logo to mark cultural moments.

The film detailed the life of the bird, it featured then-groundbreaking footage from inside its nests and became hugely popular in Britain after it was broadcast on the BBC.

Biography

Heinz Sielmann was born on 2nd June 1917 in Mönchengladbach, western Germany. He was one of the most revered and respected wildlife photographers and documentary filmmakers of the 20th century.

At an early age he moved to East Prussia where his father opened a business selling electrical and building supplies. He was fascinated with wildlife since he was a child. He would wake up early in order to watch birds before going to school.

At the age of 17 he got his first camera and began taking wildlife photography.

In 1938 he produced his first nature film a silent movie on birdlife in the province of East Prussia. His career was interrupted the following year by Second World War.

He was initially stationed in occupied Poland as an instructor at a radio communications training unit for the Luftwaffe, spending time as a prisoner of war in Cairo and London.

After the war, he began his critically-acclaimed work for the Educational Film Institute of the Federal Republic of Germany.

It was during this time he started filming Carpenters of the Forest, capturing the elusive woodpecker in a degree of depth that had not been seen before.

One of Sielmann’s most notable works was Carpenters of the Forest, which captured one of Europe’s most elusive birds, the woodpecker, in a way that had never been seen before. Sielmann placed cameras inside woodpeckers’ nests and in this way he ended up capturing intimate moments between parent and offspring.

The project was followed by a book about its making called My Year with the Woodpeckers. In it, Sielmann wrote: “Of all the animals that I have worked with, the woodpeckers are my favourites … because I was able to find out many new facts about the biology of these birds.”

In the late 1950s, he released his first feature film, Les Seigneurs de la Forêt, or Lords of the Forest, which was commissioned by the King of Belgium and filmed in the then-Belgian Congo. The movie captured the social nature of gorillas in their natural habitat.

From 1965 to 1991 Sielmann presented a popular wildlife show on German Television, Expeditions into the Animal Kingdom.

In 1971, he filmed The Hellstrom Chronicle, which showed the struggle for survival between humans and insects. This film won an Oscar for best documentary.

In 1994 he founded the Heinz Sielmann Foundation, devoted to giving children a better understanding of conservation issues.

Death

He died in his sleep in 2006 surrounded by his family in Munich. He left behind his wife Inge Witt (married in 1948) and his only child Stephan Sielmann.

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