Good Gnus From The Masai Mara

After an extremely busy time between here and the leopard shoot in Sri Lanka, there's finally time to write.

Arriving here a week ago, we were told that the wildebeest (gnu) migration had already returned to Tanzania a few weeks early. Although this wasn't crucial to the two films we are making here (crocodiles and hyenas) it is always disappointing to arrive at a party when everyone's gone home. There were a few herds about, but generally things were looking a bit empty.

Then, we had two days of rain and the herds piled back across the Mara River to cover the plains. It is an astounding sight, wildebeest as far as the eye can see in all directions. This scale of this spectacle never ceases to amaze me, but also saddens me to remember that until quite recently, Europe, North America, Asia, India, other parts of Africa all had similar concentrations of wildlife which have all but disappeared.


Stop Press: Transmission News

We have transmission news for the lion film that we made last year.

The film will be known as Night of the Hunt in the US and Night Of The Lion elsewhere (don't ask...)

The first transmission will be at 9pm on the 13th September on Nat Geo Wild in the UK and the rest of Europe*, for photos and a lovely trailer see the Night of The Lion website.

Night of the Lion is the first of a series of films featuring nocturnal activity. Currently in production are films discovering the nocturnal behaviour of leopards, hyenas and crocodiles.



The wonderful thing about filming in a new place is that there is so much to learn...

The problem with filming in a new place is that there is so much to learn...

No matter how much research we do before we start filming, it's only when we actually get there, start filming and meet people who know the place well, then we start to get a real idea of the relationships between the animals and the landscape and how the seasons affect the whole ecosystem.

Our original plan had been to film the start of the dry season, then go back next year for the rains. Then we realised that the end of the dry season would be a time of much more interesting behaviour (in terms of the film we want to make), so we have changed all our plans around.

This is by way of an explanation for the lack of notes from the field - we've been in a frenzy of rescheduling. We all flew back to the UK to get kit cleaned, repaired and repacked. One crew is now filming hyenas in Africa - they have no internet, no phones and no electricity - no news from there yet. The other crew are scrambling together the necessary equipment to go back out to Sri lanka in three weeks time.


Flashy Geezer

Although this is supposed to be a leopard shoot, we couldn't resist taking photographs of some very interesting ants. Their shiny bodies are quite difficult to photograph, a modified flash is needed - here is Martin's ingenious diffuser involving twigs and an old plastic shopping bag.


Project leopard Commences

Chitral Jayatillake and Wari Illangasinghe from the John Keells Hotels Group with the first recipient of a leopard-proof cage.

The large animals that inhabit national parks might be great for a country's tourist industry (and marauding filmmakers), but for many of the people who live in the vicinity of the parks these animals can pose a considerable threat to their livelihoods. Around Yala National Park there have been several leopard attacks on local cattle herds and last year alone four or five leopards are known to have been killed by either the villagers or poachers in the area around Yala.

John Keells Hotel Group, which owns hotels near Sri Lanka's National Parks and organises wildlife safaris has recently embarked on Project Leopard, a scheme that will be giving local farmers several portable leopard-proof cages to protect the calves at night.

The first of these cages was handed over to a local farmer last week and we went along to film the event.


So Much To Tell ...

... we've filmed leopard liaisons, jocular jackals, beautiful birds, creepy crocodiles and food fighting, we've witnessed the donation of cattle-protecting cages and we've made some great sound recordings, none of which we can share yet because the internet connection doesn't work much - and we have to go even further into the jungle; notes from the field will continue in a week or so when communication permits.