Millions of people travel to countries in Southern Africa each year to photograph wildlife, and behind every picture we see on social media, there is a story. Some stories are beautiful and inspiring, and put a spotlight on the tireless conservation efforts made to protect these animals. However, other stories have a dark side, especially when it comes to unethical and misleading tourist activities.
In 2011 I worked with the Cheetah Conservation Fund to document the re-wilding of four cheetahs on the Erindi Private Game Reserve in Namibia, and this was my first glimpse at the challenges and rewards of big cat conservation. I returned to Erindi in 2018 to learn more about their ecotourism model, and I also interviewed senior officials at the Southern African Wildlife College, the Game Rangers Association of Africa and the Safe Ranger Project to gain insight on how everything from poaching to geotags are affecting wildlife and local communities.
My film, which was funded by Matador Network, examines the balance between tourism, conservation and social media, especially when it comes to practices that have an impact on big cats. Big cat populations are declining all over the world, and African lions have dropped from over 400,000 to around 20,000 in the last century. While those are daunting statistics, we can do a lot more than we might think when it comes to helping protect these animals. Whether we are planning a trip or we simply enjoy looking at wildlife pictures and videos on our phones, it all starts with education, speaking up and taking action. If you’d like to learn more, please watch my film here on Vimeo (or on YouTube), and if you’d like to do more, please share it on social media -- and with everyone you know.