We reached out to our World Wildlife Day Film Showcase filmmakers to ask them five questions about the experience of making their films.
Describe some of the challenges faced while making this film/program.
Director and Producer Katie Schuler: My crew and I took safety and security precautions before and during our two weeks of filming in Nigeria. That said, we still faced potentially hazardous encounters with corrupt government officials who tried to confiscate our cameras and increasingly volatile situations with frightened poachers and sellers of pangolins and pangolin products. The most challenging thing we filmed was the actual butchering and decapitation of a wild white-bellied pangolin, which was too gruesome to use in the final film. In the end, it was worth the risk and helped us better shed light on how the demand for pangolin scales in Asia is expanding the illegal trade of pangolins in Africa.
Any fun facts about the film/program, the subject matter or the production crew that might surprise the audience?
KS: We arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, one of the largest (if not the largest) hub for illegal pangolin trade in Africa, to document how the illegal trade operates. Instead, we came away with an entirely different story about the people going to extreme lengths to save this threatened animal. Most notably the star of our story is Dr. Mark Ofua, a veterinarian who at risk to his own safety and career, regularly visits Bushmeat markets to rescue and rehabilitate pangolins. We witnessed him do this with 8 different pangolins (including some baby pangolins that were separated from their mothers) during our two weeks filming with him. The highlight for me and my crew was witnessing Mark releasing these lucky pangolins back to the wild in a protected forest.
KS: One of the greatest challenges in creating conservation strategies for pangolins is that we simply dont know much about them. Science and data collection is vital to the survival of this species and yet there are very few teams studying them around the world. I was lucky to spend a couple of weeks documenting the incredible research on the black-bellied pangolin by PHD candidate, Mathiue Assovi in Cote d’ivoire earlier this year. I’m excited to share the resulting doc with audiences in the coming months in an effort to inspire more people to value and support science and research of pangolins.