Jono Gilbert

Former Exeter students plan Nigeria documentary

Two aspiring filmmakers are raising money for an ambitious wildlife documentary project in Nigeria.

Chris Guggiari-Peel and Jono Gilbert, both University of Exeter graduates, plan to visit the south west of the country with experts from Paignton Zoo to make a conservation film.

As well as “Attenborough-style” shots of jungle wildlife, they will record the work of a local Nigerian educator who is employed by the zoo.

Various versions of the film will then be made for use by the zoo and the educator as he visits villages promoting conservation.

“This part of Nigeria has the worst rate of deforestation in the world, and this jungle is rich in wildlife such as chimpanzees,” said Mr Guggiari-Peel, 24, who lives in Exeter and works as a project researcher for the university.

“There are many endangered species, and much of the threat to them comes from passive hunting – not poachers looking for high-value kills, but locals hunting for food and not minding what they catch.

“The idea is to show the film at villages in the area to tell them the value of these endangered species in the hope they stop hunting them.”

Mr Guggiari-Peel said making the film would be “difficult” due to the threat posed by poachers and illegal loggers.

Mr Gilbert, 25, from Caterham in Surrey, is currently working on baboon research in Senegal.

He said: “Our filming project will take us to Omo-Shasha-Oluwa Forest Reserve in Nigeria.

“The area is under enormous pressure from unsustainable logging, hunting, forest clearance for agriculture and the introduction of invasive plant species.

“By creating bespoke educational videos, we will be passing on invaluable knowledge and highlighting the importance of the endangered species to the local communities and schoolchildren who are most dependent on the forest for their survival.

“This work is completely voluntary and can only go ahead with the generous backing of caring, farsighted people, who understand the importance of projects such as this.”

The pair, who both completed masters degrees in Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, plan to spend three weeks in Nigeria in February – two weeks in the jungle with two experts from Paignton Zoo, then a week filming the work of the local educator who is employed by the zoo.

They hope to raise £1,200 from the public to help fund the project, and have set up a Just Giving page for donations.

Existing examples of their work can be found at their production company website, Farsight Conservation.

The rainforests of south-western Nigeria are of great conservation importance as they are home to some of the country’s last remaining populations of large wildlife, including forest elephants and chimpanzees.

Paignton Zoo and its umbrella charity, the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, have supported conservation education in the Omo Forest Reserve since 1993.

The education officers work within the local primary schools raising awareness of environmental issues and run a conservation club for teenagers and the wider community.

Staff members from both the research and education departments also make annual visits to the Omo Forest Reserve to provide technical support and training to the team.

Date: 1 December 2016

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