Science is my passion and I love finding out new things about big cats and the environments in which they live. However I feel that I need to share this with the world and especially young children, who will ultimately inherit whatever we leave for them. My work has taken me to places as remote as the Congo-Uganda border, the Peruvian amazon, the coastal forests of Sri-Lanka, and the foothills of the Himalayas. Here are a few of my more recent media projects from the last few years, for National Geographic, working alongside Steve Winter, and others. Cover photo: Zach Mason.
TREE-CLIMBING LIONS, BIG CAT WEEKEND - national geographic WILD (DECEMBER 2018)
I was the DP, on camera scientist and presenter, and field producer for the National Geographic documentary "Tree Climbing Lions". I co-ordinated a small field team of two camera operators and one field assistant and shot in the northern Kasenyi and southern Ishasha regions of the Queen Elizabeth National Park. I operated a variety of cameras and drones including the RED Epic-W, RED Dragon, Sony A7S2, Sony ME20 (night time shooting), and Mavic Pro drone (all aerials of lions and landscapes). The show was one of the headlining 43 minute documentaries as part of BigCat Weekend December 2018. It is now live globally on National Geographic WILD and Channel.
SNARING HAS BECOME THE GREATEST THREAT TO AFRICAN LIONS - NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (29 November 2018)
Snaring indiscriminately kills wildlife throughout Africa, including both animals that lions prey upon, and the big cats themselves. This piece written by Rachel Nuwer, shows our rescue of a tree-climbing lioness (Naturinda). Caught in a motorbike clutch cable snare, this video shows the rescue operation of Naturinda by members of the Uganda Carnivore Program, WCS, and Uganda Wildlife Authority. Most lions caught in snares don’t make it, dying of their injuries, or becoming mortally maimed. Photo: Luke Ochse.
inside the hidden world of jaguars - national geographic MAGAZINE (december 2017)
I served as a cameraman and photo assistant to Steve Winter on his December 2017 National Geographic Magazine article on Jaguars. I set still camera traps in Tucson, Arizona, shot video for an accompanying National Geographic online feature on the trade in jaguar parts in Iquitos, Pucallpa, and Lima, and managed budgets, and itineraries for all fieldwork. I also wrote up the results from all of the price data on jaguar parts encountered on our Peru work in a scientific publication accepted in the journal Conservation Science and Practice. This National Geographic Magazine story is the most recent and comprehensive exploration of the jaguars natural history, conflict with people, and importance to the local cultures of South America. Photo: Steve Winter.
Inside the black market sale of jaguar parts - national geographic (27 november 2017)
I filmed this short piece for National Geographic about the trade in jaguar parts in two Peruvian cities (Iquitos, and Pucallpa). This video complimented the December 2017 National Geographic Magazine story by Steve Winter and Chip Brown. Catch the scientific paper that I wrote about the trade in jaguar parts and its potential link to the Ayahuasca tourism on my Science section (published in Conservation Science and Practice). Check out the video here: https://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/magazine/0000015f-c5cb-d80f-a7ff-f5df2a060000
In the shadow of a giant fuel plant, a unique wild cat is thriving - EARTHTOUCH (April 2017)
In early 2016 I joined the SASOL Synfuels team in South Africa's Secunda region to document the world's densest population of servals! Servals are the sleeker (but certainly none the less incredible) relatives of big cats and with their satellite dish-like ears and powerful back legs they are effective hunters of small rodents and ground birds. I shot this short video story and wrote a piece about SASOL serval research project leader Daan Loock and his team working on a cat that is thriving in the most unexpected place: the world's largest coal liquefaction plant! Check it out below!
a conversation with richard fidler - abc radio (august 2016)
Brisbane's finest radio broadcaster, Richard Fidler and I sat down on the 24 August to chat about leopards. For nearly an hour we discuss what makes the leopard the world's most quintessential cat. Spread throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, through Persia, east Asia and even Indonesia, we also talk about how this cat is quickly disappearing from much of its range, the causes for its decline and what's being done to save them. If you want to find out everything from what a leopard feels like, what you should do when you see one and how one individual crossed three countries to try and find a home for himself tune into this cool podcast.
the future of big cat conservation - tedx university of queensland (july 2016)
On the 30th of July 2016 I gave a short TEDx talk at the University of Queensland on the future of big cat conservation in Africa and globally. From mountain lions assisting the growth of Fermont Cottonwood trees in Zion National Park, western USA to leopards saving the Mumbai municipality health costs associated with stray dogs, I make the case for why big cats are important to human societies. I then discuss a few novel ways in which we could inject more funding into the protection of big cats, namely collaborating with large corporates and introducing financial risk carriers into human wildlife conflict schemes. There is hope for bridging the financial shortfalls which are preventing the protection of big cats, the key now is to collaborate and work together in achieving this.
cats of contrast - sanctuary asia (april 2016)
Leopard management varies greatly between countries and continents. In this article I talk about the main differences in how leopards are managed in South Africa, India and Sri-Lanka. From leopard translocations to the safari viewing industry, leopards have vastly different value for different people around the world. In India and Sri-Lanka there is no thought of shooting leopards for sport, while in South Africa this is a regular occurrence and leopards can fetch as much as $16 000. There is much to be shared on how we manage our safari viewing industries and how to make local communities living alongside leopards benefit from them.
Rescue to release: an orphaned serval on the road back to the wilderness - earth touch (march 2016)
In late 2015 Matt Myhill and I followed the journey of two orphaned servals back into the wild in the Natal midlands. After their mother was killed, they arrived at the Free Me Rehabilitation Centre where they gained weight and condition for a release back into the wild some eight months later. We collaborated with serval scientist Dr Ramesh Tharmalingam to find out what makes good serval habitat, why serval releases are difficult and what the main threats facing the species are in South Africa. This is the first of a two-part online film story on one of South Africa's least studied cat species.
Can hunting save animals? - forbes africa (FEBRUARY 2016)
Trophy hunting is one of the world's most contentious issues. Many people feel that there is simply no place for shooting animals for sport in the 21st century where humanity is both progressive and putting to bed old colonial pursuits. However many of Africa's remaining protected and non-protected areas receive substantial revenue from this practice. In this piece I talk about the recent hypes about trophy hunting in social media (about Cecil and beyond), the potential ecological dangers it poses to large charismatic animals and its economic benefits and cons. I make the argument that if hunting is to be abolished in Africa, it is high time for us to work together as a society to come up with economic alternatives that will empower the people who live alongside wildlife in Africa (and in most cases see little benefit from it).
Leopards at the door - national geographic wild (FEBRUARY 2016)
Between May - September 2015 I served as a member of a production team on Nat Geo Wild's Leopards at the Door special. Travelling across India with Steve Winter, Bertie Gregory and Simon Boyce, our team documented leopards and people living together, often in unexpected circumstances. From leopards on the urban fringe in Mumbai to conflict leopards in Bagashwar, we spent over two months devising ways of showing leopards to the world like never before. I assisted Bertie Gregory (principal photography) with camera assembly and in field filming and also served as an in field scientific consultant and science liaison for producer Simon Boyce. I also filmed cutaways of Steve and Bertie in the field, a two shot of a leopard and man in a seven story building, a two shot of Bertie filming "big daddy" and an aerial cue-ball scene of a leopard crossing a residential bridge in Mumbai. The film is presently doing the rounds on Nat Geo Wild in the USA and is scheduled for worldwide release soon!
Life as a national geographic photographic assistant- intrepid explorer (FEBRUARY 2016)
In February 2016's edition of Intrepid Explorer magazine I write about my experiences working as Steve Winter's photographic assistant on the biggest ever leopard story covered by National Geographic Magazine. From filming leopards with Bertie Gregory in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park to getting images of leopards walking on beaches in Sri-Lanka's famed Yala. A lot of the time it's the coolest job in the world and you'll experience the most incredible wildlife, cultures and people but sometimes you'll have to deal with hyena-bitten camera-trap cables, broken boxes and tripods and most importantly tough customs officials! One thing's for sure though, wildlife photo and film work has got to be the coolest thing a human being can do!
Wildlife photographer life behind the lens - national geographic kids (February 2016)
In February's Nat Geo Kids I interview my two mentors, Steve Winter and Charlie Hamilton James, both contributing photographers at National Geographic Magazine. I ask them about how they got into photography, what their favourite equipment in the field is and also what they can advise young kids to do to get into the field of photography. They both reckon that it's about showing a story or animal differently, in a way the world hasn't seen it! You don't need a lot of cash but thinking about cool angles, weird behaviours or unseen phenomena will definitely get you into the coolest job on earth. Happy snapping :)
The expert's guide to spotting big cats in south africa - getaway (FEBRUARY 2016)
In Getaway's February edition I collaborated with leopard biologist Richard Mckibbin to write a practical guide to spotting big cats in South Africa, and how to do it on a budget in our biggest and most productive national parks. From Kruger to the Kgalagadi, we look at giving you tips on where to catch a glimpse of leopards, lions and cheetahs. We don't just give you habitat preferences and tips on how these cats behave, we give you locations, road names and map loops which are renowned for big cat sightings. If you're worried about how to get to these parks and what it will cost you, we've got you covered and include everything from info on gate times to park fees. So if you can't afford a couple of nights in the Sabi-Sands or Timbavati, grab a copy of Getaway and head to a park that's closer to home and half the price!
Best jobs in the world - mens health (February 2016)
I teamed up with Kieran Legg to give my experiences as a photographic and scientific assistant for Steve Winter and National Geographic Magazine and Television. From getting stuck in a Mumbai customs office for 3 hours with 300 kilograms of gear or tracking tigers on elephant back, my internship with Steve was the best year of my life. No photography course could teach me the still and video skills I gained while working on the production team and during my time with Steve we set about 30 still camera-traps and a number of video traps to capture some of the most incredible footage of leopards the world has ever seen. Apart from the incredible scenery, seeing all those leopards (on foot, in vehicles and from filming hides) experiencing Indian and Sri-Lankan culture, cuisine and hospitality was incredibly memorable.
VULTURES ARE REVOLTING. HERE’s WHY we need to save them - NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE (JANUARY 2016)
I served as photographic assistant for the South African leg of Charlie Hamilton James’ vulture story for National Geographic Magazine. We travelled to wildlife markets in Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal to document the trade in vulture parts. The images Charlie got on this leg of his story were critically acclaimed and helped him win the 2017 Wildlife photojournalist of the year award. Photo: Charlie Hamilton James.
LEARNING TO LIVE WITH LEOPARDS - NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE (DECEMBER 2015)
I served as photo assistant, second cameraman and field researcher for Steve Winter and Richard Coniff’s December 2015 National Geographic Magazine story. During two field periods (two, and four months each), we travelled across India, Sri-Lanka, and South Africa to document leopards living in a variety of environments ranging from city edges (Sanjay Gandhi, Mumbai), beaches (Yala, Sri-Lanka), and savannahs (Timbavati and Sabi-Sands, South Africa). We examined their relationship with humans, how they cause damage to their livelihoods, and how they serve as ecotourism flagships for the safari industry. This is the most detailed magazine story done for National Geographic about the world’s most widely distributed but persecuted big cat. Photo: Steve Winter.
toque macaque selfies and swimming behaviour - earth touch, Discovery channel & national geographic kids (january 2015)
On my travels with Steve Winter and National Geographic Magazine and Television I had the opportunity to film some incredible footage of a troop of Toque Macaque monkeys in Yala National Park's Gem river. Using a Canon 5D Mark III camera and GoPro Hero 3+ calibrated to shoot at 60 FPS, I obtained footage of the troop swimming, dive bombing and even examining my action camera. The clips and accompanying article had over 20 000 views on the Earth Touch Youtube and Facebook page and over 10 000 on the National Geographic Kids SA Facebook page. The footage was also aired on Discovery Channel Canada's Daily Planet and The Viral Video show Right This Minute (http://www.rightthisminute.com/video/rtmtv-copyright-monkey-selfies).
LEOPARDS ON THE CHEAP - TRAVEL IDEAS (MAY 2015)
People have often asked me where I thought the best place is to view leopards in Africa and in other parts of the globe. I wrote this article to suggest a few places that I think are good bets to spot a leopard, and to do it on a budget. There are three important things required for your chances of seeing a leopard to increase (apart from the obvious one of a bit of good luck!) and these are 1) a high number of roads 2) lots of river and drainage lines and 3) permission to take your vehicle off-road. Leopards are energy efficient in their movements and they will regularly use roads (this especially applies to adult males with large ranges). If you manage to get to a reserve which has these features and a decent number of impala, nyala or bushbuck you are very likely to see a leopard! Zambia's South Luangwa National Park, South Africa's Phinda Private Game Reserve and Sabi-Sands complex are particularly great places to see leopards and other large carnivores. With their brilliant communication of sightings on radio, they can guarantee impressive rates of success for leopard, lion, wild dog and even cheetah.
WE LOVE LEOPARDS! -NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS (FEBRUARY 2015)
Half an issue dedicated to Africa's most loved big cat. I wrote a piece on the life and struggles of leopards in the greater Kruger National Park. The piece details the threats, development and everyday challenges in a leopards life. From young cubs dodging snakes and hyenas to encounters with their own kind. The piece also details the journey of a young Zululand leopard collared by Julien Fattebert and Tristan Dickerson in 2010. He travelled over 350 km across South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland trying to fin a home of his own after leaving his mother.
BALLIOL FOR BIG CATS - FLOREAT DOMUS (JUNE 2014)
In late 2013 over 100 Oxford University students gathered at Balliol College's Hollywell Manor to hear about some of the biggest threats facing big cats around the world. They did it because they recognized the value of the rampant lion on Balliol's College shield. Collectively and together with an online Indiegogo crowd funding campaign they also raised nearly $ 3000 to help a lion conservation project in Uganda's Murchison Falls National Park. This article discusses the concept of Balliol for Big Cats and how one Oxford College did its small bit for the conservation of the animal on its crest through a daring and innovative lion project in Uganda.
SECRET LIFE OF THE CARACAL - NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS (APRIL 2014)
The caracal is one of the least known medium-sized cats in the world. Living across much of sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the middle east. With its big amplifier-like ears it is an expert in listening out for small rodents and ground birds which it hunts with rapid charges and explosive jumps. In fact the caracal has the highest power to mass ratio of any cat in the world! But the caracal sometimes gets into trouble in many farming areas in the Cape, Free State and even around Windhoek in Namibia where it often gets killed by farmers for sometimes eating goats and sheep. But there are ways to live together. Protective dogs, wire collars and even predicting when caracals will come to a farm (using GPS satellite collars).
LIVING WITH LEOPARDS - FARMERS WEEKLY (APRIL 2012)
Leopard-farmer conflict is an important management issue in many parts of the Cape. Leopards sometimes kill livestock such as cattle, goats and sheep, often in marginal farming areas where profit margins are narrow. Stock farmers often react with lethal means (gin traps, hunting dogs, poison and helicopter or vehicle hunting) and leopards are killed. In the southern Cape stock farmers seem to tolerate leopards and this is probably owed to their diet which comprises mainly natural prey like bushbuck and rodents. Contrastingly cattle is avoided. The greater George-Wilderness complex appears to be a model of co-existence between farmers and leopards.
Forgotten cats project - South magazine (August 2010)
Malcolm Rush from South magazine profiles the diet and prey preference work we implemented in the George-Wilderness Complex in this winter edition of the magazine. The article details the challenges of performing research in an Afrotemperate forest environment and examines the camera-trap, faecal analysis and laboratory-based work we did over a three year period between 2008-2010. Importantly, the piece also highlights the need for applied research and communication with the people who have to live alongside leopards. Luckily in George, there is little evidence to suggest leopards conflict with people and the farmer community largely corroborates this view.
Forgotten cats leopard project - Sabc national news (october 2009)
The South African news profiled the research I implemented in the forests of the southern Cape with Laurence Watson and Damien Coulson. Most of the worlds leopards are found outside of protected areas and I emphasize the importance of working with farmers in the greater George-Wilderness region. The SABC also bring you the first footage of a leopard collaring performed by the Landmark Foundation and Cape Nature in the Rheenendal forest. Leopard home-ranges in the Afrotemperate forests are about a fifth smaller than in the mountain zones, making this habitat critical for leopard dispersal. Video credit: SABC Television.