SUNRISE National TV - Wildlife vs GoPro - WATCH [11th Feb 13]
This morning I was live in-studio talking to Mel from the aussie-wide breakfast TV program SUNRISE about the awesome footage I got on my GoPro camera in Kenya last month, where I stuck the camera onto a remote controlled car and drove it out in front of some lions and other animals to see what they'd do!
TV INTERVIEW & FULL SET OF GOPRO WILDLIFE VIDEOS ARE BELOW!
In the meantime, just in case some people get the wrong idea here, I wanted to reassure anyone who may be concerned that this was irresponsible, possibly endangering the animal if it swallowed the camera (or bits of it), or environmental vandalism leaving bits of plastic around, or harassment of the animals etc. I thought I best pre-address such concerns now, so it doesn't spoil your enjoyment of the footage =)
Being an environmentalist myself, I certainly gave the above points a good deal of thought before I did is, and the reality is that I honestly believe I did this responsibly. Not only did I not want to loose the camera and footage, but more importantly I did not want to hurt the animal, or the amazing environment in which we travel to see them in:
Firstly, I bought an off-road filming permit that enabled us to go off road and not only get the camera once it'd finished being played with if it got taken away into the bush, but also allowed us to make sure we picked up any little piece of equipment/pastic if something was bitten/broken off it. We took quite a risky effort to ensure this, including getting out of the car and nervously walking around scrounging the ground to check, despite being in scrubland where we had just watched 3 lions vanish. We left nothing behind.
I too was wondering if the animals might try to actually 'eat/swallow' or ingest bits of the camera (and thus if I should perhaps cover it in a bad taste or pepper or something to ensure they did not), but our 2 expert guides (who are the same experts that BBC Wildlife and IMAX 3D use by the way!) said the animals would not try to actually eat it, and they were 100% correct. They said the animals would simply be curious, but quickly realise it did not smell, taste or feel in their mouths as food should, and so it may become a bit of a play-toy at most, of which they would eventually tire and leave alone. So it was kinder not to cover it in a foul-tasting deterrent. All the animals like Elephants etc simply walked up to it, sniffed it, maybe gently nudged it or considered stepping on it, and then when their curiosity wore off they simply walked away - the lionesses were the only animals that actually mouthed the camera and as our driver guides predicted, they simply saw it as a curiosity and carried it around, and dropped it on the ground and licked it, pawed it, and teethed it to feel its texture without seriously trying to chew it to pieces. The animals were well aware it was not food, and as predicted showed zero inclination to try and swallow anything.
And as for wondering if it could be considered as being 'cruel' or 'unethical' by simply putting a camera on the ground and engaging an animals innate curiosity to have it come over and take a look, I don't see this as a fair call. Far, far worse is done behind the scenes for many documentary films if you know what goes on (not that in my eyes this would justify my doing it). Also it is not like I was chasing animals around with this camera, harrasing them or anything like that. Most animals are innately cautious of anything they don't recognise, and so if I was to move the camera towards them while they were watching or heaven forbid chase them, I guarantee the animal would flee (and thus ruin the shot too), so we did nothing like this. Most of the time it was simply subtly placing the camera where we hoped the animal would come across it, or driving it into position before the animal arrived, and wait. Only for bold animals like a lion etc I'd sometimes move the camera back and forwards a bit etc to try and get the animals attention if it seemed like it was going to completely ignore it, or if when the lion did pick it up then I'd wriggle it to hopefully encourage the animal drop it. What with all the safari vehicles around, the in-park camps etc there is ample opportunity for lions etc to chew on man made things and swallow man-made objects if they wanted, but they do not, it doesn't in any way resemble their natural food - unlike say a sea bird out at sea where a coke-lid or something looks like a floating bit of food, or a plastic bag at sea that looks like a jelly-fish or random nets etc that entangle wildlife at sea, these are all genuine concerns for wildlife, but I honestly don't believe that this really correlates here at all.
I hope this brief explanation helps shed some light on what the situation really is out here - I admit that some of my marketing hype/wording of things like 'GoPro VS lion' etc does kinda make it sound like the lion was attacking it and trying to eat it, but rest assured that's only marketing hype to make people watch the videos =) If it was a case of me zipping the camera around harassing and chasing animals which then chewed it to pieces littering the ground with abandoned pieces of plastic and ingesting batteries etc, then yes, I'd hope you'd all be in uproar about it, but as I hope you can now see, what I did was nothing like this.
In closing, one of our safari clients on that trip actually worked for RSPCA, and she freely wrote in her support, unasked, in response to some well meaning facebook critique, writing that "Being on the safari with the GoPro there was in no way any cruelty to animals, all animals approached the GoPro on their own terms. In no way were the animals harassed. The guides are very experienced and know the animals behaviour and were 100 % correct in their predictions. There was no environmental vandalism as all parts were picked up after the lions had left the camera."