Promoting Wildlife Conservation While Having Fun
Christian Cave saw movement in the water, and, based on the ripple patterns, he identified the source as a snapping turtle. From the high bank, the Kennesaw State University (KSU) sophomore dove into Allatoona Creek.
Standing ankle-deep in the water and holding a camera, Bobby Hardin Jr. reached into a backpack and tossed Cave a snorkel and mask, while Ryland McGreevy hopped into the water to direct the turtle toward Cave.
Cave submerged himself for several seconds but emerged empty-handed, disappointed, but laughing heartily.
“That’s my favorite species,” the sophomore said. “It’s going to be a great day.”
From two guys with a video camera and an Instagram account to a three-man operation with a business plan and hundreds of thousands of followers across several social channels, the Caveman Wildlife Crew has evolved into a serious endeavor.
Cave and McGreevy, both environmental science majors, share a love of science and an even greater desire to bring respect for wildlife to the masses through their TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages. Cave serves as the on-air talent, while McGreevy does most of the filming.
Hardin, a marketing major, brought his social media videography skills, production experience, business savvy and social media marketing acumen to the team last year. He also has written the team’s business plan and knows his way around the algorithms that bring their videos to people seeking nature videos.
And the videos have developed some serious reach. This spring, the trio traveled to south Florida for an indigo snake expedition, to New York City to discuss TV opportunities with a Discovery subsidiary and to south Georgia to work on a preservation project for indigo snakes. Cave said these trips embodied Caveman Wildlife’s mission — equal parts conservation and entertainment.
“It’s been crazy, and I don’t know that I deserve any of it,” he said, “but I couldn’t ask for a better experience, traveling all over with my friends and letting people know about the importance of wildlife.”
Cave loved animals at a young age, watching the exploits of Australian personality Steve Irwin on TV and finding wildlife around his family’s Kennesaw home.
“I look back at my childhood pictures, and it just seems like I was at Tennessee Aquarium with a butterfly or have a Mason jar with a praying mantis in it,” he said. “I just had a natural inclination to handle creepy-crawly things.”
But he also loved performing and became a theater performance major when he arrived at KSU in fall 2019. After Caveman Wildlife took off, he realized he needed to lend credibility to his science acumen.
“I couldn’t just be Christian Cave, wildlife explorer, so I felt I needed to get some kind of extra knowledge in science,” he said. “That’s why I switched to environmental science.”
McGreevy began attending Lost Mountain Middle School in seventh grade and befriended Cave, who was in his science class. The two formed a bond through their shared humor and love of science and remained close friends through high school. They both chose to attend KSU, which meant they could continue their exploits in the wild.
Often, Cave locates an animal and hands the camera to McGreevy. On most shoots, Cave carries a backpack with cameras and sound equipment and can put it together almost instantly.
“I do a lot of primary videography with a DSLR camera,” McGreevy said. “The dynamic that we have allows us to work fluidly when we’re out in the field. We all have different jobs, different things to attack and different things to keep in mind. But, at some point, it’s just hiking around in the woods with your friends.”
Oddly, Hardin was a year ahead of Cave and McGreevy at Harrison High School but never crossed paths with them. After an injury ended his football career, he began focusing on acting.
Hardin enrolled in KSU as a marketing major in 2018, and he met Cave after a performance by Harrison’s theater department at the college’s Stillwell Theater in 2019. Midway through 2021, Hardin joined Caveman Wildlife.
“I do social media videography and some social media photos, and, thanks to my marketing classes at KSU, I’ve put together our business plan,” he said. “I’m still doing some acting as well, still auditioning for roles, but I love working with these guys out in the woods.”
The group’s first YouTube documentary was uploaded recently, and there’s talk of an LLC and a nonprofit dedicated to conservation, but Cave said the crew will continue to inspire and inform.
“We’re going to start putting out more entomology, more herpetology, more ichthyology, more ornithology,” he said. “We’re trying to hit all these different animal groups and even get into plants and everything soon, where it’s a wider scope and a broader approach to wildlife education and conservation.”
Cave said his team’s forays into the wild don’t always produce the chaos of the snapping turtle adventure. In fact, producing one brief video involves hours of searching and waiting for brief glimpses of the reptilian and amphibian life they prefer.
“Sometimes, we’re out there for like eight hours, and we don’t find anything, but that’s just a part of it,” McGreevy said. “The snakes or turtles or whatever are out there, but just not today. We keep going back, and we’re not going to stop.”
On their recent excursion to Allatoona Creek Park, McGreevy finally found a newt relaxing on a rock. After a brief chase, he safely trapped it in his palm, handed it to Cave, grabbed the camera and started recording.
“Aw, look at this,” Cave said. “This is Notophthalmus viridescens, the Eastern newt. Just beautiful.”
– By Dave Shelles
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