Seven films on wildlife crime

Documentary>> Seven Films on Wildlife Crime Produced uk Environment Film Fellowships 2006, in association with Discovery Channel

Published: Sunday 15 July 2007

Which animals are the biggest icons of wildlife conservation in India? Tiger, elephant, leopard? Throw in some bears, butterflies, turtles and coral reefs, and you have the subjects of the seven films which were previewed at the British Council on June 5, World Environment Day. These were Last Dance by Ashima Narain; The Hunted by Jay Mazoomdaar; Turtles in a Soup-by Kalpana Subramanian; The Silenced Witness by P.Balan and Radha R; Diminishing Resources by Himanshu Malhotra; Once There was a Purple Butterfly by Sonya V Kapoor; Leopards in the Lurch by Gurmeet Sapal

There are some large themes among them animals are important in their ecosystem; local communities depend on them, in cases, revere them and their role; there are pressures from outside; communities exploit the resource, at times inadvertently. The other theme is human-animal conflict. Leopards and elephants come into conflict with communities as the animals move into human-dominated areas.

The choices of subjects come as a relief in the tiger/elephant-dominated realm of wildlife films. Seldom does one get to see a film on butterflies or even on coral reefs. The films are well-researched, the footage is painstakingly shot and sites range from Gairsan district of Uttarakhand to Lakshadweep island to villages in Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh.

But the cushy presentation, at times, brushes off many other issues. We are shown footage of an incident in Nasik, where a leopard is chased around by the public after it entered a residential area. The crowd does end up killing the animal. In other films, there is footage from wildlife ngos on illicit trade of wildlife products. What remains unexplored is the lack of preparation that the forest department had, to handle such a situation.

Conflict with wildlife and crimes against wildlife is a field rife with pointed fingers. The films tread carefully to take a middle path, only blaming China, if at all. This seems to work, though. Even though many of the unpleasant shot of violence are smudged, one can hear the gasps among the audience, treading, as the films do, between animal welfare and species conservation; the former taking the stand of 'welfare of each individual', the latter having no problems with even culling, if the species stands to gain.

The film on turtles especially, comes close to raising ethical issues with eating non-vegetarian food, but then carefully avoids that.

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