Q: What inspired this story?
Yaz: I created Wake Up & Smell the Flowers to celebrate European Ground Squirrels, an
absolutely adorable species! I moved to Vienna in September last year, which meant the
ground squirrels were already in hibernation. So making this film was actually my first time
experiencing these beautiful animals! I was inspired to create this film from some gorgeous
photographs of the ground squirrels and flowers I had seen. I thought what could better
represent Spring than adorable ground squirrels embarking on a frantic flower feast! That is
something everyone just has to see!
Q: Describe some of the challenges faced while making this film/program?
Yaz: I aim to create all my films to have only the smallest carbon impact possible. Thanks to
Vienna’s amazing public transport network and with a bit of leg power, this film was created
without a single car journey (and also without flights). Carrying gear through a combination
of buses, undergrounds and trains, plus a 3.5km hike, allowed me to film the ground
squirrels! It was absolutely worth the extra effort, knowing this film was created with such
small carbon emissions.
Q: What impact do you hope this film/program will have?
Yaz: European Ground Squirrels are endangered and threatened. Despite being a protected
species, their habitats are still being destroyed and fragmented due to agricultural
expansions and building developments. I really hope that this film will raise awareness for
this beautiful species and hopefully inspire those who live in the same countries as ground
squirrels, to help them. Currently European Ground Squirrels are resident in: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic,
Greece, Hungary, Moldova, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Turkey.
How can you help European Ground Squirrels?
Q: Were there any surprising or meaningful moments/experiences you want to share?
Yaz: Although I filmed lots of ground squirrels, I spent most of the time focusing on the couple
featured in the film. It was a very beautiful experience as I watched their relationship over
time. They paired up almost as soon as the female awoke from hibernation. I then witnessed
their interactions and affection with each other grow, as well as the male fending off many,
many other males. Once the female was pregnant, they were so focused on preparing for
the new arrivals, particularly the female running back and forth constantly to collect nesting
material, every single morning as soon as the sun was up.
The male ground squirrel is a very curious and friendly little guy, who was often coming to
check out me and my camera, jumping into my camera bag when possible and even getting
comfy in my fellow camera operator, Jack’s, shoes. Everytime he interacted with us, I just
could not stop smiling! It was a beautiful experience witnessing a huge part of these little
animals’ lives. I am also very happy to report that a few weeks after filming finished, two
adorable babies emerged from the couple’s burrow!
Q: What next?
Yaz: I am continuing filming and working on stories about Vienna’s wildlife. You would be
surprised just how much amazing wildlife there is in this beautiful city!