Expeditions

I have been privileged to travel across South Africa , Sri-Lanka and India for my photography and camera assistant work with Steve Winter. I have also worked extensively in South Africa on three different leopard research programs and a lion re-introduction project in the Timbavati. Experiencing the diversity of people, cultures, habitats and wildlife in other places has allowed me to understand that conservation policy has to be tailored to area-specific needs. Researching and photographing big cats in different areas has also taught me that when it comes to developing a deep ecological understanding of a species you have to see them in all of the different places they live!  The attached map shows some of the places I have worked with lions, leopards and even the small caracal.  Cover photo: Bertie Gregory.

 

Jaguars in the usa (april 2017)

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I am presently assisting Steve Winter with his National Geographic Magazine story on jaguars. I am helping Steve to show this incredible species in the northern most extent of its global range! The jaguar is the only big cat from the Panthera genus which has no sub-species across its range - all the way from Arizona to southern Argentina - one species: Panthera onca! How cool is that? Leopards Panthera pardus have nine! Steve is showing this incredible cat to the world, the threats it faces (e.g.. deforestation, palm oil, poaching for the medicinal trade and even massive mining, construction and canal developments! 

We're doing a ton of hiking and setting up the latest in cutting-edge camera traps to get shots of this cat in the USA. Stay tuned for some production stills and video footage I shoot of Steve documenting the America's largest and sexiest cat! Check out Steve's exciting images on @stevewinterphoto 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Servals in south africa (october 2015 - january 2016)

 A collared serval walks past one of our photographic camera-traps on the Sasol plant in Secunda.

A collared serval walks past one of our photographic camera-traps on the Sasol plant in Secunda.

 The two brothers enjoying some time out at Free Me's rehabilitation centre. Orphaned at a young age, Free Me has given them one more chance at freedom. 

The two brothers enjoying some time out at Free Me's rehabilitation centre. Orphaned at a young age, Free Me has given them one more chance at freedom. 

In late 2015 I began shooting video and stills for Earth Touch, a wildlife production company based in Kwazulu-Natal. I collaborated with Matt Myhill to cover one of Africa's least studied cats: the serval. Medium-sized and snacking on rodents and small ground birds, they weigh about 13 - 16 kilograms and are constrained to grassland, wetland and forest edge habitats in northern Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng's Highveld. We documented this elusive and poorly studied cat in one of the most incredible environments in Secunda: a commercial petrochemical plant. Working with Daan Loock, Kevin Emslie and Dr Wayne Matthews we visited the Secunda Serval project which lies approximately 150 km east of Johannesburg. The serval project team is studying all facets of serval ecology in the 3000 hectare grassland and wetland zone around Sasol's petrochemical plant. We filmed the team radio-tracking servals, camera-trapping and also obtained the first thermal footage of servals in this unique habitat. We then focused our attention on two orphaned servals living in the Natal midlands. We filmed their journey from Free Me, a rehabilitation centre in Howick, to freedom on a large farm in the Fort Nottingham area. Finally we sought to show some of the threats facing the species in South Africa and got caught up in a skin market in the back streets of Durban where we were offered a pair of serval skins for $ 400! Catch our short documentary on this incredible cat in early March on the Earth Touch website, Facebook and Youtube page. Locations visited: Secunda, Durban, Fort Nottingham. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leopards in Sri-lanka (july - september 2015)

After repacking over 350 kg of camera gear in Mumbai we flew across the Indian ocean to the island of Sri-Lanka. After touching down in Colombo I spent the evening listening to the chants and songs of buddhist monks in a temple next to our small hotel. From Colombo we journeyed a short 150 km to Yala National Park, a 978 square kilometre protected area lying on the islands southeastern coast. We were hosted at Kulu Safaris, a tented camp owned by Javana Fernando, a one of a kind naturalist and conservationist. We spent one month in the park photographing and filming the rare Sri-Lankan leopard, a unique leopard sub-species which has been isolated from mainland India for over 10 000 years. We also spent our time setting up remote still and video camera-traps to show leopards in the unique jungle, granite inselberg and beach environments of Yala. When Steve and Bertie left the park in August, I was tasked with staying behind and servicing 15 camera-traps scattered around the parks jungles and beaches. Locations visited: Yala National Park, Arugam Bay, Colombo.

 Sambar deer on the beach in Yala National Park. There's many theories going around on why they go into the sea, maybe its for ticks, maybe the salt - maybe its just cause they like it!

Sambar deer on the beach in Yala National Park. There's many theories going around on why they go into the sea, maybe its for ticks, maybe the salt - maybe its just cause they like it!

 Looking for leopards in the heart of Mumbai with my mentor Steve Winter. Leopards here live on the urban edge and help rid the city of its high numbers of domestic dogs. Photo credit: Rajesh Prabhakar.

Looking for leopards in the heart of Mumbai with my mentor Steve Winter. Leopards here live on the urban edge and help rid the city of its high numbers of domestic dogs. Photo credit: Rajesh Prabhakar.

 With Rajesh Prabhakar after a hard days work helping Steve set up remote camera-traps in Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Photo credit: Krishna Tiwary.

With Rajesh Prabhakar after a hard days work helping Steve set up remote camera-traps in Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Photo credit: Krishna Tiwary.

LEOPARDS IN INDIA (MAY - JUNE 2015)

I continued to assist Steve Winter for his worldwide story on leopards for National Geographic Magazine and Television in 2015. This was my first trip to India so I was nervous and excited at the same time! Our journey started in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a 104 square kilometre wildlife preserve in the middle of the worlds fourth largest city: Mumbai. For over a month we documented leopards in the national park using all-night stake outs and the latest in remote camera-trap and video technology. From Mumbai the expedition ventured north to Delhi, from where we travelled to Uttarakhand's Jim Corbett National Park. Here we attempted to find leopards and tigers on elephant back (unfortunately we only saw their tracks). From Corbett we headed to the Bageshwar District to document man-eating leopards, at one point just 100 km from Tibet we explored the region interviewing farmers, community members and even hunters on leopards in the region. The final stop of our Indian journey was a 10 hour drive northwest to the capital of Himachal Pradesh: Shimla. Here we met with renowned Indian leopard biologist, Vidya Athreya to get her views on the conservation of the big cat in India. I found the Indian trip to be a continuous learning experience and my responsibilities increased beyond logistics and photographic assistantship. Steve and producer Simon Boyce handed me the responsibility of being a second cameraman for a new Nat Geo Wild television show. Trained by Nat Geo cameraman and photographer Bertie Gregory, the experience was a baptism of fire in the realm of camera operation, remote video filming and sound. I am grateful to Steve, Bertie and the incredible support team made up of Rajesh Prabhakar, Kunal Chaudhuri, Nayan Khanolkar and Krishna Tiwary in Mumbai. Oliver Sinclair and Balbir Tikari were instrumental in showing us the incredible sights and people of northern India.  Locations visited: Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Jim Corbett National Park, Shimla District, Bageshwar District. 

 

 

Vultures in South Africa (October & November 2014)

I assisted Charlie Hamilton James on his worldwide Nat Geo story on vultures in October and November 2014. Our focus was to document the killing and illicit trade of African vultures in South Africa and to photograph the efforts being made by several individuals and organizations to save them. We travelled to the muthi markets of Warwick triangle in Durban and Faraday in Johannesburg where we found a host of vulture parts being sold for medicinal purposes. We then journeyed to Pongola, where we documented the efforts of Ezemvelo Wildlife and Wildlife ACT in GPS tagging young white-backed vultures. A short visit from Pongola took us to the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary in Pietermaritzburg where Charlie got imagery of one of the worlds only captive bearded vultures. From Natal we journeyed to the Lowveld where we visited Brian Jones and the Moholoholo vulture feeding restaurant. If it wasn't for Brian's feeding lot, it is doubtless that more vultures would be poisoned by poachers on properties further afield. From Moholoholo we visited Satara, a rest camp in the heart of the Kruger National Park, to document vulture-friendly electricity lines - an initiative driven by Andre Botha and the Endangered Wildlife Trust. Our trip concluded in the Magaliesberg mountain range, where we joined Kerri Wolter from VULPRO to photograph one of the Highveld's last remaining colonies of white-backed vultures. Seeing the plight of my countries vultures was an incredible honour. I urge anyone interested in helping vultures to donate to the VULPRO rehabilitation centre: www.vulpro.com Locations visited: Faraday market, Warwick triangle market, Kruger National Park, Magaliesberg, Pongola Reserve, Mkhuze Game Reserve.   

 Charlie Hamilton James photographing Andre Botha ringing a young white-backed vulture chick in Mkhuze Game Reserve, Kwazulu-Natal. 

Charlie Hamilton James photographing Andre Botha ringing a young white-backed vulture chick in Mkhuze Game Reserve, Kwazulu-Natal. 

 

Leopards in South Africa  (July - September 2014)

In late 2014 I joined Steve Winter and Bertie Gregory on assignment for National Geographic Magazine. Together we travelled across South Africa documenting leopard natural history in mountain, savanna and woodland environments. We also documented the ways in which people use leopards in culture and their livelihoods. Our journey started in Kwazulu-Natal, where we visited a Shembe gathering to explore the use of leopard skins in local Zulu culture. We then headed across the country on a 13 hour journey to the SA - Botswana border to document issues surrounding leopard hunting. Despite there being a maximum of 150 leopards on hunting quota in South Africa there is almost no information available on their numbers. The team then flew to South Africa's west coast to document the world's smallest leopard, a 20 - 45 kg variant (but not a sub-species) living in some of the harshest terrain on earth: the Cape fold mountains. We also met with several farmers to discuss the challenges of rearing livestock in marginal rainfall areas and where leopards often kill stock. The final leg of our trip took us to the heart of the Lowveld where leopards reach some of their highest densities on earth. At Dulini Private Reserve (Sabi-Sands) and Batelelur (Timbavati) we spent two months documenting two sets of female leopards and their cubs and about a dozen other individuals. From female leopards squaring over territory to a newly dispersed youngster taking their chances against a fully grown waterbuck, our time with the worlds most relaxed population of leopards will be forever engrained into our memories. Locations visited: Inanda Dam, Tom Burke, Baviaanskloof, Cederberg, Sabi-Sands, Timbavati, Faraday market.             

 Steve Winter has mentored me in the art of camera-trapping for over a year. Here I help him set a camera in the Timbavati Game Reserve. Photo Credit: Bertie Gregory.

Steve Winter has mentored me in the art of camera-trapping for over a year. Here I help him set a camera in the Timbavati Game Reserve. Photo Credit: Bertie Gregory.