Filming on AEFF’s Inspiration Series of films is well underway. As explained in the previous post, this is a series which highlights individuals and small organizations who are making a living out of doing something positive for conservation and their environment – in the films, these individuals are presented as role models, setting a good example which others can emulate when they see the films. In this way, shared experiences can be passed across the continent, bringing benefits to people, wildlife and the environment on a wide scale. The power of the moving image for imparting information that is inspiring, memorable and useful cannot be underestimated, which is what makes AEFF’s films such potent educational tools in the conservation field.
Simon Trevor, at the head of AEFF’s film production team, sent in this report at the beginning of March, updating us on two of the Inspiration film projects he is spearheading, both of which are being filmed on Kenya’s coast north of Mombasa, and feature important marine issues:
“Watamu Turtle Watch:
This film, about the work of the Kenyan NGO Watamu Turtle Watch, is now about 80% complete. It follows the activities of WTW’s Field Manager Kahindi who is an exceptional man. His meticulous approach to his work to rescue turtles that have been caught in fishermen’s nets comes across as we see him going about his daily activities. WTW have now rescued over three thousand six hundred turtles in the last seven years. Villagers take the unfortunate turtles back to their homes and alert Kahindi who duly comes along, collects the turtle and returns them to the sea. The villagers are paid for keeping the turtles alive. The alternative would be that in most cases the turtles would be killed and eaten.
Kahindi also documents all turtle movements and knows almost to the day when a turtle is likely to return to Kenyan shores to lay her eggs. This is done at night and one has to be very careful not to disturb the turtle. We are now hoping to film this during March.
Freelance camerawoman, Lesley Hannah, filmed two outstanding sequences recently for AEFF. The first one featured 100 baby Green Turtles hatching during the afternoon. The second sequence shows a Hawkesbill turtle feeding on sponges, while a small black fish frantically rams itself at the turtle’s head. We think this was to try and distract the turtle away from its eggs.
Kuruwitu: Between a Rock and a Hard Place:
Forty years ago, this area on the coastal reef just north of Vipingo, near Mombasa, used to be one of the most extraordinary coral gardens on the entire Kenya coast. However, due to the ravages of the aquarium trade, the tropical fish and the corals themselves were virtually destroyed. The number of sea urchins covering the entire area bears testimony to the fact that the fish that eat them had been fished out, the helmet shells and the starfish, which also eat them, had been sold to tourists. The sea urchins undermine the corals by feeding on algae causing them to collapse and die.
In 2002 a group of local people, wealthy homeowners and local fishermen joined forces to declare the area a ‘No Fishing Zone’. Although at the time they had no legal status, they persevered and today the area has been legalised as a Community Marine Reserve. They have just received a grant of 17 million shillings ($250,000) from a donor organisation to allow them to diversify their activities and earn a living from the area without resorting to fishing.
We have been filming here for almost two years now, with all the underwater sequences being shot by Lesley Hannah.
One hundred thousand years ago, the sea was much higher than it is today and in a patch of coastal forest nearby there are caves, which would have contained fish and other marine creatures of that period. Today, just offshore in the existing reef there are more caves and we filmed a fishermen swimming deep into them to catch small fish with primitive nets made from mosquito nets. He was able to hold his breath for three minutes and Lesley was able to follow him by using diving equipment. With breakers crashing overhead and the current swirling back and forth, this was no mean feat on her part. We wonder if the same scenario was carried out by primitive man all those years ago?
We also filmed the work of Dr Tim MacClannahan who has been monitoring the marine environment here for ten years. We filmed him lifting out a chunk of concrete into which he had inserted a thermometer a year ago. Since then it has given him around one thousand readings – as I was filming him and he was saying it would take a chisel to open it, the concrete suddenly parted and there was the thermometer, still intact and working away. We were able to film a starfish devouring an urchin by straddling it and crushing it. We wonder how many tourists realise they are upsetting the whole ecological balance, and even the livelihoods of people in the long run, when they buy dried starfish to take home.
We also filmed the demise of a number of turtles caught in illegal nets set by fishermen from Tanzania. These people had come up the coast, stolen five hundred metres of nest, set them and left them for two nights. The Kuruwitu Conservation people saw this activity and went to collect Kenya Wildlife Service rangers who were able to arrest the culprits.
We hope to finish this film during the next six months and to narrate it in several languages, including Giriama, the local language of this section of the coast.”
We are seeking funding for the production of DVD copies of these two films in several African languages, for free distribution to conservation organizations and educational institutions continent-wide. When you consider that most local fishermen (let alone people living further inland) have never seen below the surface of the sea, it is clear these two films will have a tremendous educational impact, showing how it is not just ecosystems on land which are jeopardized by mismanagement, but ecosystems underwater too. Equally, marine environments also have the potential to earn revenue for local communities, if managed correctly.
Because high quality replication facilities do not yet exist in East Africa (we tried to produce a recent batch of DVDs in Nairobi, only to have to recall them all due to malfunction), AEFF uses a DVD replication service in London. The total cost per DVD is $7.50, which includes the replication cost, the printing of the cover and the shipping to Africa from UK.
On average, we produce 1,000 DVD copies of each of our films, for free distribution to all our distribution outlets, at a total cost of $7,500 per film. For the two films mentioned above, therefore, we are seeking a total of $15,000 to produce 1,000 copies each, in various languages, print the covers, ship them to Africa and distribute them.
Please help us if you can by making a donation – large or small, it all adds up and makes a positive difference.