Jan 23

Patrick Rouxel is an environmental filmmaker and conservationist whose films include the multi award-winning Green and Alma. Patrick’s most recent film, Life Is One, was nominated for a 2016 Wildscreen Panda Award in the Creative Innovation category and has recently won the Best Wildlife Film Award at the New York Wild Film Festival.  It is the story of a return to life in the wild for three sun bear cubs in Indonesia. Patrick’s encounter with these three cubs has changed his life and he now focuses on improving the welfare of captive sun bears in Indonesia and raising awareness on their plight through his charity Sun Bear Outreach. This is his story.

Patrick Rouxel

I’ve been making films on conservation and animal welfare since 2014, specializing on the Indonesian rainforest, the Congo Basin and the Amazon. In my travels I would often come across animals kept in very bad conditions, I would usually film them and then move on. With the footage I helped raise awareness about animal suffering, but this did not change anything for those animals I had filmed. I had not altered their misery in any way.

In 2010, as I was making fundraising films for a small orangutan rescue centre based in Borneo, Indonesia, we received a small sun bear cub in a wooden box that villagers had brought in from their village. The mother bear must have been shot, but luckily the cub was brought to the rescue centre rather than sold as a pet to some private owner. She was a female that I named Bunbun and I took care of her for the several weeks. I grew very fond of her and I didn’t want her to spend the rest of her life in a cage, so this time, rather than move on, I decided to stay and give her back her freedom.

Sun bear in small cage

It took about nine months before I was actually able to bring Bunbun to the forest. The reintroduction took place in a national park with a remote camp serving as base. It was a progressive adaptation to life in the wild. I was going to stay in the forest with Bunbun until she grew fully independent. Every morning at dawn, I would let her out of her night cage and we would spend the whole day in the forest to play, explore and search for food. But she couldn’t find enough food to satisfy her appetite, and in the late afternoon, she would gladly go back to her night cage close to camp where food awaited her. She made no fuss at being locked in for the night as she knew that she would spend the whole next day in the forest again.

Bunbun

Unfortunately, after just 3 months in the forest, Bunbun disappeared, never to be seen again. She was not yet fully autonomous, so I fear for the worse. I then encountered another 2 sun bear cubs, Bernie and Wawang, in another rescue centre and decided to try another reintroduction with them. This time I had the cubs equipped with implant emitters to be able to track them down. All went very well at first and the cubs learnt a lot from one another, but after just 6 weeks, the male cub, Wawang, was killed in a fight with another wild bear. Luckily, Bernie had been spared. Wawang’s death was a blow but Bernie and I had no choice but to overcome his loss and pursued together her path to adulthood. We spent about a year together in the forest before Bernie was able to find enough food to sustain herself and gradually went off into the forest for longer and longer periods before not coming back to camp anymore.

Bernie and Wawang in the forest

From having spent so much time in the forest with the bears, I have learnt to appreciate how they belong to the tropical rainforest, how energetic and inquisitive they are and how they love to play. There was never a dull moment with the bears in the forest, they were active and on the move from dawn to dusk, and their favourite activity besides eating was playing. Besides a few dogs I know who are always happy, I had never seen an animal express so much joy at the simple fact of being alive. Through Bunbun, Bernie and Wawang, I discovered a magnificent expression of life on earth.

Bernie climbing a tree

There is something wrong about depriving any living creature of its freedom, but keeping a sun bear in a cage is something particularly cruel. I am sure that the degree of joy a sun bear feels when living a free life in the forest matches the extent of pain he feels when locked in a cage. Sun bears hate to be locked up, they’ll go crazy from not being able to express their energy. And in Indonesia there are many sun bears locked in cages. These bears have lost their mothers, their freedom and their habitat. They’ve been so deprived of everything that they wouldn’t even be able to survive in the wild if they were given the opportunity.

Bernie with her friend Bagor, a Bornean orangutan

Strangely, sun bears are mostly unheard of by the international public and there is not a single local or international organisation in Indonesia dedicated to rescuing sun bears and caring for them. So I founded my own charity called Sun Bear Outreach, and through this charity I raise funds that I use to improve the welfare of the bears I encounter, individual by individual. I go to the places where sun bears are kept in poor conditions and I construct bigger cages and large forest enclosures, so that the bears can at least feel the earth under their paws, dig, run and climb trees.

The Life is One film documents these early reintroductions and the trials and tribulations that Patrick endures to save these endangered bears.

Find out more about Patrick Rouxel and watch his films on his website.

Explore the Arkive sun bear species profile and learn more about these beautiful animals.

May 9

We recently caught up with with our friends at Voices for Nature who were keen to tell us about the unique and innovative work that they are doing to save Brazil’s rainforests and what the future holds for their organisation.

What is Voices for Nature?

We are a not-for-profit organisation based in Oxford, UK. Our aim is to inspire and engage people to protect and conserve Brazil’s rainforests through conservation story-telling. We believe that stories are powerful tools for learning and catalysts for change. We use literature, theatre and film to engage people in conservation and give a voice to nature.

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Aerial view of a tree in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest

Voices for Nature was formed in 2014 by Sigrid Shreeve, an environmentalist and campaigner who has worked in Brazil over many years. Voices for Nature employs students and young graduates offering them the opportunity to be creative and engage with conservation.

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Sigrid Shreeve

Sigrid is the author of the novel ‘Jabujicaba’ which was written as an engagement tool under the penname ‘Rosa da Silva’. In the novel, Brazil is bankrupt due to the effects of climate change and the Amazon is up for auction. The royalties from ‘Jabujicaba’ support rainforest conservation through Voices for Nature’s partners the World Land Trust, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Isle of Wight Zoo.

What does Voices for Nature do?

Voices for Nature is an arts organisation which connects people with conservation. Our work is based on the eco-thriller ‘Jabujicaba’, which forms the basis of various initiatives. These include:

The Jabuji debates – a national debating competition for sixth formers in the UK. The competition is run by Voices for Nature and the debates are hosted by Eton College. The First Jabuji Debates final was in March 2016 with participating schools from London, Berkshire and Kent. The event consists of workshops, mini-debates and a public final debates.

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Debaters with Sigrid Shreeve

Forum theatre – we are producing a play entitled ‘The Amazon Auction’ with pupils from Wheatley Park School near Oxford, which will will be performed in Oxford Botanic Gardens in June 2016. As part of the performance two teams will ‘pitch’ to the audience to convince them to support their bid in a mock auction of the Amazon Rainforest. Performers will play roles of characters from the novel ‘Jabujicaba’.

Documentary film – Voices for Nature supports original conservation documentary filmmaking. We were executive producers of the documentary Uncharted Amazon, which was shot in an endangered part of Peru’s Amazon. We will be screening Uncharted Amazon as part of the Oxford Festival of the Arts in June 2016 and also running campaign film workshops for young people together with the charity Film Oxford.

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Voices for Nature workshop

Rainforest Movie – we have a big screen movie under development based on the novel ‘Jabujicaba’. The movie is a cross over between Apocalypse Now and a rainforest Erin Brockovich. The lead role with be played by the actress Yrsa Daley-Ward and the movie is part of our outreach and educational work, linking to the Jabuji Debates. The movie has been entered into Richard Branson’s #VOOM2016 to raise profile and help fund development.

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View over REGUA site in Brazil

Find out more about Voices for Nature

Visit the Voices for Nature website

Watch the Jabujicaba trailer

Vote for Jabujicaba to win #VOOM2016

Follow Voices for Nature on Twitter or Facebook

Visit the Arts Festival Oxford website to attend a free film workshop or attend a screening of ‘Uncharted Amazon’

Apr 12

Jamie Unwin is a conservation photographer, Wildscreen Exchange contributor and zoology student at the University of Exeter. After creating a highly successful film on elephant poaching in Malawi, Jamie enlisted the help of coursemate Hannah Pollock to create their own conservation organisation, Stand Up for Nature (SUN). SUN’s aim is to use education to bring about cultural evolution to conserve wildlife. Their first mission was to use a bicycle-powered cinema designed and constructed by Jamie to take this film to communities that had not yet seen the film.

The pair have just finished their first and very successful bicycle powered cinema project in Malawi, and over 6 weeks they reached over 14,000 people with the film and took 336 children into 6 protected areas to see their country’s wildlife for the very first time.

Malawian children watching poaching education video

Malawian children watching poaching education video

Jamie and Hannah have now returned to England and were keen to share their amazing experience with us.

Jamie – what was it like to return to Malawi?

J – Meeting all those people that I had spent many memorable moments with a year ago was special for me, last year was an eye opening experience and it provided me with an introduction as to what was really happening to Africa’s elephants. Tears of joy as well as moments of great sadness were shared with some incredibly inspirational people.

Hannah – what was it like seeing an elephant in the wild for the first time?

H – Having never seen an elephant in the wild before I was somewhat on a similar playing field to the children that we brought into the parks. Unfortunately, my first experience with a wild elephant was under the worst of circumstances, on Christmas day we received word that a poached elephant had been found and so we joined the ranger patrol as they went off to find it and establish a cause of death. As I witnessed my first wild elephant dead at the hands of a poacher it simply reinforced in my mind how important the project was and the true severity of the problem.

Jamie's last visit to Malawi alerted him to the extreme poaching problem in the country

Jamie’s last visit to Malawi alerted him to the extreme poaching problem in the country

Thankfully I had further encounters which were incredible, the most memorable was when we were observing a herd of elephants playing in a lake. As we sat watching, 3 males decided to come and investigate us, we remained quiet and still as they approached so that they wouldn’t be startled. Deciding that we posed no threat and also that in fact we weren’t that interesting they went about stripping the nearby trees of their leaves and had lunch right in front of us.

Jamie – how did you feel when you joined the rangers during a night raid to catch a poacher?

J – No one will ever understand the real brutality of the situation in Africa unless you have worked with one of the rangers. They put their lives at risk day in and day out, to keep Africa’s wildlife safe.

Late one night we had a call from an informer that a poacher had been seen carving up bush meet. The land cruiser was quickly assembled with 10 rangers in full camouflage, I was placed in the back and told to make sure I had nothing that would omit light. I set to work duct taping all parts of my camera to make sure none of the dials or the screen would give any light signal which would alert the poacher of our position. We were dropped a couple miles from the poacher’s location, this is where our back up stayed in case we encountered trouble. We walked quickly and silently with nothing but moonlight guiding the way until Richard, the head ranger, signalled that we were nearly there, he discussed a quick plan with the rest of the men. I joined Richard’s group and we proceeded to walk quickly towards the suspect’s location (a small mud hut with a grass roof), one ranger had unclipped hand cuffs from his belt and held them open and ready.

Sat by a fire was a man cooking the legs of a bush pig, before anyone had time to react and with no exchange of words, the handcuffs were placed on the individual and he was lifted onto his feet and walked back the way we came. The rangers had already called for backup and as we reached the main track the land cruiser arrived and we swiftly piled into the back, poacher and evidence included. We then drove back to camp the interrogation began the following morning.

Hannah – due to the time constraints incurred by running the project over your Christmas holidays, was it fun to have a 19hour working day? Describe what an average day would involve?

H – We certainly worked long hours out in Malawi but this was essential as there was a lot to get done. A typical day would involve us waking up around 5am so that we arose with the sun ready to start the day. Daily activities included visiting schools to show the film and leading discussions, meetings and interviews with a variety of organisation representatives and figureheads, bringing the children into the parks, shadowing individuals and learning what work was being done by those at the forefront of wildlife protection and of course lots and lots of driving as we covered an extraordinary distance, most of which was off-road.

Evening film showing in Malawian village

Evening film showing in Malawian village

Most of our evenings over the six weeks were spent showing the film to communities – we would arrive around 6pm as the sun was setting and set up the bicycle powered projector then begin as soon as it became dark. The community showings tended to last longer as more people got involved and we kept them going for as long as there were questions/comments. By the time we returned to wherever we were staying that night and had cooked and eaten dinner it was usually nearing midnight.

From the second we arrived in Malawi we had every moment scheduled, we had one afternoon scheduled off in Mzuzu for travelling but upon being asked by a school student to show the film at his youth club we couldn’t say no. Seeing the response we got, the smiles on the children’s faces as they saw the wildlife and experiencing first-hand the warmth of the Malawian people was incredible. Malawi truly is the ‘warm heart of Africa’. I can safely say we all slept very well on the aeroplane home!

Malawian school children during trip to national park to see local wildlife

Malawian school children during trip to national park to see local wildlife

Hannah and Jamie – it’s sad to see so many conservation projects end once the project leaders have left the country, was this the case with yours?

H & J – The last thing we wanted was to just turn up in Malawi, stay for six weeks and then just disappear again with no long term plan in place, that wouldn’t have helped anything. In order to avoid this, we worked with local educators throughout Malawi, giving the communities a lasting figure head once we had gone. A wildlife guardian network was established, a proportion of which is being managed by ‘Children in the Wilderness’ and various ‘Wildlife Clubs’ of the Department of Parks. The story book ‘The Elephant and the Mountain’ was also given out to children to remind them of the wildlife they had seen. Most importantly the project has now been handed over to Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, the British High Commission have funded a similar bicycle powered cinema to stay in Malawi and the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust will be continuing to visit communities and schools to show the film alongside their outreach work. We hope to return in the future to see the project flourishing.

So what’s next?

H – Kenya! Jamie is already in Kenya filming for the next project and we aim to run the bicycle powered cinema across Kenya in August 2016!

Jamie and Hannah - founders of Stand Up for NatureJamie and Hannah - founders of Stand Up for Nature

Jamie and Hannah – founders of Stand Up for Nature

The film can be viewed here.

Find out more about Stand Up for Nature on their website.

Mar 19

Have you ever seen a wildlife film and wondered to yourself, who is the person behind the camera? Enter Rich and Richard Kern – the dynamic wildlife filmmaking father/son duo who capture incredible imagery of Florida’s magnificent wildlife and ecosystems and share it with over 1.5 million students! They are a more-than-worthy team to conclude Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series.

Rich (left) and Richard Kern out in the field.

Rich (left) and Richard Kern out in the field.

If you find Rich and Richard’s story inspiring, then click on the blue button below or at the end of the interview to see Rich and Richard’s “Wish List” of actions that would help them continue sharing their films with the world. Working together, we can support and promote conservation.

Kern wish list button

Can you share the story behind the beginning of Odyssey Earth and how the pieces came together?

Rich: I began as a filmmaker and I showed the films that I produced to travel adventure audiences all over the United States and Canada. In 1977, my wife and I started the non-profit Encounters in Excellence to teach students in the Miami-Dade area about Florida wildlife and ecosystems. This soon became a large series to over 50 schools per year.

Rich Kern and his wife, Judy, founders of Encounters in Excellence

Rich Kern and his wife, Judy, founders of Encounters in Excellence

However, I also wanted to find a way that students could have access to this type of educational material year round. My son, Richard came up with the idea of creating a website for the films he and I had produced. Teachers and students could now navigate this site and explore and discover the different resources available to them for lesson plans which became Odyssey Earth.

Richard: Our typical film presentation series runs from the Fall through early Winter. This past year my dad visited 25 schools and I visited 50 schools. We give 2-3 presentations for each school totaling about 130 presentations each year. We create different presentations for elementary school and then middle school and high school students reaching about 40,000 students each year.

Can you share a filmmaking moment that stands out to you whether it was a connection you made with a species you were filming or a moment of enlightenment about nature?

Rich: I was in Silver Springs, FL filming fish and I was quite focused. I didn’t realize that there was an alligator swimming behind me. I didn’t see it until it was practically in my lap. Once I understood that the alligator was more afraid of me than I was of it then I started following it and filming.

American alligators abound in Florida, USA

Richard: When my dad got home, he started going through the film, and my mother promptly told him that he should buy life insurance.

Have there been ways that you can measure the impact that your work has on students both in Florida and around the world?

Richard: One way that we measure our impact is through questionnaires and evaluations that we hand out to teachers and students.

Rich: The average rating we receive from teachers is a 95% “excellent” for our presentations. I think it also significant that we fill our quotas for teachers and schools that want us to present. We recently made some films that dealt with the food web as well as more specific issues like the rise of sea levels.

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Richard Kern snorkeling and filmmaking in creek

Can you share your typical kit (equipment) list?

Rich: Back in the day, you needed 16mm film equipment and changed your film every 3 minutes.

Richard: With new technology, however it’s changed what you pack. First off you need a backpack to carry all your supplies. Usually we take a fluid head tripod, a small hi-def Canon camcorder, and a digital single lens reflex camera. Getting into specifics though, I always pack a light shotgun microphone, lenses, and an external digital sound recorder. As for essentials in Florida, water to stay hydrated, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent is a must.

Sometimes, a filmmakers kit can be just as interesting to the subject as it is to the filmmakers themselves!

Can you also share your equipment tip list for amateur filmmakers?

Richard: If you already have a handheld camera, then that is a good place to start. I would recommend a fluid head tripod.

Rich: It makes your shot smoother, which makes the film less distracting for the viewer. You can also get a pan-tilt cradle where you can place your camera to get wide angle shots. You also should get a camera with a wi-fi capability which allows you to use it remotely.

What would you advise someone who is starting to look at how to get into wildlife filmmaking?

Rich: Go to college and study biology. Filmmaking you can pick up as you go. As a filmmaker, you have to learn to craft a story. You want to make sure that you get the science right and that you engage your audience. You should also take a journalism course or English course in college, it helps you to effectively create the narrative.

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Rich Kern filming seals early in his career

In your opinion, what is the advantage of visual media compared to other ways of storytelling?

Richard: The written word comes in many different languages that cannot be understood by everyone. Meanwhile, the visual is universal. It’s a universal language. Visual media can be easily digested and seen by everyone.

Finally, what do you find most rewarding in your field of wildlife filmmaking?

Rich: I love it when I capture a rare species behavior. To get it on the screen and get it right the first time is worth a lot of excitement.

Richard: You can look at flora and fauna as puzzle pieces. Seeing how those puzzle pieces work together, finding the relationships is amazing.

 

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The Kerns have been fortunate enough to film a variety of species in incredible global locations

From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself 

Inspired by Rich and Richard’s story to take action? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take an action like sharing their story socially, helping to spread the word further, to donating to their work to educate others about Florida wildlife and ecosystems! Whichever you choose, your pledge to take action matters to the Kerns, to Arkive, and to the incredible species and habitats of Florida.

Take Action!

Kern wish list button

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