Guest post: Secrets of the Savannah

Barreleye Zoology’s first guest blog was written by Ryan Eddowes, a Zoology with Herpetology student at Bangor University. Ryan talks about his time filming his documentary, which can be seen here. Enjoy!

I had the great fortune of travelling to South Africa, to be an intern at Africa Media. Africa Media has been running for the past 5 or 6 years, they provide month courses, which includes Photography journalism and Wildlife filmmaking and in association with ocean Campus, interns can go and research the oceans. While being on this wonderful trip, I went Great White Shark cage diving, walked next to two African Elephants, witnessed seals porpoising next to me in the water, while I was swimming in the Indian ocean. I also witnessed a group of Southern right wales mating and a lone whale breaching in the background, what a stunning experience.

But the best experience of the whole trip, was when we travelled from Mossel Bay to Scotia private game reserve, we spent 10 days filming the wildlife. I developed an idea of what sort of documentary I wanted to make. I knew from the start, I wanted to be the protagonist and drive the story. But after watching David Attenborough all my life, I wanted to create a blue-chip film. But as I thought about this, I began to change my mind. I know that modern documentaries use drones, cub cams and GoPro to get some really cool footage. With this thought in mind, I wanted to put a GoPro in dung and see what animals walk past, I could then talk about them. But as I spoke with Ryan Johnson a wildlife film maker who has studied Great white sharks and produced films for National Geographic and Discovery, we both thought it would great to send cub cam into the lions and see how they would react.

We immediately grabbed the cub cam and we set of in the jeep. We found a nice spot on the hill and I began talking about creating the cub cam, once finished we went on a search for lions, within about half an hour we found them. Ryan started filming me, I said “now that we have found the lions, I will set up my camera and send in the Cub Cam”. This was the first time I ever drove this little Cub Cam and within 5 minutes it got stuck, within a couple of feet of the lions.

Suddenly instead of the lions just watching it and maybe just sniffing it the younger male grabs the cub cam and runs of with it. We did not know what to do, we began to chase them in the jeep, but they just kept on running. But we noticed the lions went into these bushes. After, about 5 minutes the lions left the bush without the cub cam in his mouth. I then got out the car with Ryan and we filmed me going into the bush to find it. I was fortunate to find it after about 10 minutes of searching, with lions only just around the corner. we took Cub cam back to HQ and download the footage.

A new idea came to our minds. Crocodiles, they would be great to get secret behaviour of, especially if we could get them chewing on a bone and try and show the immense power of their jaws. We placed some chicken on an old bone that we had found and tied some string to it, when we arrived at the scene and we placed more sting on, so we could chuck the meated bone and slowly pull it back and get the crocodiles out of the water. This was working great until suddenly I realised the cub cam was very close to the waters side. In a flash, the crocodile climbed on to the grass verge and came towards us, I noticed the cub cam was very close to the crocodile’s, so I tried to turn cub cam around and get it a way. By then it was too late the crocodile noticed the movement of the vehicle and went for it and took it straight to the water.

I honestly thought we had lost it forever, I was so close to tears because I thought, how would I pay for a new GoPro and another car. Suddenly to my surprise the crocodile brought the cub cam back up, this was because my ranger was still chucking the bone into the water and they thought there was more food. The crocodile then dropped it, I ran quickly to go grab it, the GoPro was still attached and we download the footage after, and again this was so cool, I had to put this in my film.

Just to let the viewer now that when we arrived back at HQ with the mashed up CubCam, Ryan Johnson, cleaned it up and began putting it back together. Sadly, it does not function, but Ryan did put it back together again, hopefully one day soon, with some new batteries and some new wires the Cub Cam will ride again.

These two events were so unexpected and not planned, I was so lucky to get this footage. To think I was going to put GoPro in dung. This has been the best experience of my life and I recommend anyone to go study with Africa Media. If you decide to go please get in contact with me, I can give you all the details you require. Thank you for your kind time.

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