An evening viewing of the conservation film being screened in rural Malawi

Pedal power: students promote conservation in Malawi with innovative bicycle-powered cinema

Two Zoology undergraduates from the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus are celebrating the success of the bicycle-powered cinema project they designed to educate Malawians about the illegal ivory trade.

The six-week campaign was conceived by Jamie Unwin and Hannah Pollock, third-year students in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation. Together, they founded the NGO Stand Up for Nature, which uses short films to raise awareness of wildlife crime.

Unwin designed the bicycle-powered cinema to screen a movie that had been previously created for Malawi’s Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT). On describing his recent return to the country and collaboration with the LWT, he said: “It was great to be back and working alongside them again”.

Unwin and Pollock estimate that 14,000 people viewed the film over the course of their visit to Malawi. A second part of their campaign enabled more than 300 childrento visit six protected areas so they could see Malawi’s wildlife in person. To encourage children to continue to discuss wildlife crime in schools, Unwin and Pollock also handed out free copies of The Elephant and The Mountain, a pro-conservation storybook written by fellow Penryn Campus Bioscientists Professor Richard ffrench-Constant and Emma Wood.

The trip gave Pollock an opportunity to see an elephant in the wild for the first time; unfortunately, it had been killed by a poacher. She said: “It simply reinforced in my mind how important the project was and the true severity of the problem”. 

The project has now been handed over to Lilongwe Wildlife Trust indefinitely so that the campaign can be extended and reach an even wider audience. Further, the film will also be shown by a similar bicycle-powered campaign funded by the British High Commission.

Stand Up for Nature is continuing its efforts to raise awareness for vulnerable wildlife in Africa. Unwin is currently in Kenya filming for the next project, which aims to run a similar bicycle-powered cinema in Kenya in August 2016. 

Date: 20 April 2016

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