In wild and remote Laos, Anton/Bauer’s reliable and durable power proves essential for BBC conservation documentary.
The threat of extinction is very real for many species around the world; as we humans consume more of the Earth’s resources the habitats that wildlife depend on are rapidly diminishing.
Nowhere is the threat more real than in the remote forests and mountains of Laos where Australian wildlife conservation and animal welfare organisation ‘Free the Bears’ are in a race against time to rescue and protect Sun and Moon Bears that have been hunted and kept in bile farms for ‘medicinal’ uses which have been proven by scientists to be untrue.
To strengthen the team and to bring the plight of these rare bears to a wider audience, Free the Bears invited conservationist, and TV presenter Giles Clark, to spend 12 months with the organization as a technical adviser, helping to build the sanctuary and provide training to local staff.
Produced by Cherique Pohl and series directed by Tom Jarvis for the UK’s BBC2, the two-part observational documentary series ‘Bears about the house’ follows Giles and Free the Bears CEO Matt Hunt on a year-long journey taking on the illegal wildlife trade and build a pioneering new bear sanctuary in Luang Prabang, Laos.
Call of the wild
In December 2018 Cherique received a call from Giles requesting that she quickly jumped on a plane to Laos because a new tiny bear was coming in to Luang Prabang. She had to travel super-light, so packed a small bag with a Sony A7S rig, a fast and light Sachtler flowtech75 Ace XL tripod, a Litepanels Astra LED panel and some Anton/Bauer DIONIC XT batteries that are certified safe for air travel.
“That was my little setup. With that kit, I captured footage in December and January and from that footage the BBC commissioned the series”
There’s something about Mary
The tiny bear was a five-month old female Sun Bear, one of the smallest and rarest of all the bear species. The team named her Mary Christmas and she would go on to become the star of the show. Fragile and malnourished, Mary would need to live with Giles and Matt at home while she received round-the-clock specialist care to become strong enough to live in the sanctuary once the bear nursery completed construction.
“I knew that lighting was going to be important, with a small black bear running around a dark house I needed to have lots of light but it also needed to be lightweight so we could quickly be in position. The Astra Led panel was perfect, light enough to hand-hold and powerful enough to light up a room; running it from the DIONIC XT batteries made it even more agile to use with the added benefit of no cables to trip over - or be eaten by a bear"
The heat is on
As winter turned to spring in Laos things started to heat up. By May the average daily high was 113°F (45°C), hot and humid. “It was extremely hot” says Cherique, “especially in the house; we couldn’t open any doors because there was a small cub running around. We thought that the heat and humidity might cause our gear to cut out, but the Astra lights and DIONIC XT batteries worked as normal even as the house got hotter and hotter. Knowing that our gear would just work whenever we needed it meant that we could concentrate on Mary - who demanded a lot of attention.
One chance to get the shot
In August, Free the Bears embarked on a long trek to release some Leopard Cats back into the forest – it was the first wildlife release that they had ever done in Laos, so a massive moment for them.
“It was essential that our gear worked perfectly for us to capture that special moment. There is only ever one first release so only one chance to record it – even though it was rainy season by then and everything was wet my Sony and Anton/Bauer package stayed safe and dry in my Sachtler backpack ready to document the release”
As a team we have worked together for five years so we know what works and what we want. We are very particular for instance we will fight the rental house if they try to give us anything other than Anton/Bauer for batteries, because we just know it works.
A force for nature
Cherique, Tom and Giles have been working together since 2015. Tom worked with Giles on Tigers About the House and with Cherique another series for BBC 1, realising they all shared the same drive and passion for conservation, they joined to make films that raise awareness of wildlife crisis.
“We're all very different and bring different skills to the production, but as a team, we make a pretty strong force for nature. With our series 'Big Cats About the House', we featured human-lion conflict in Kenya, habitat loss in Costa Rica and the illegal trade in clouded leopard skins in Cambodia; the series raised over £1 million. With each of our series we aim higher and with 'Bears About the House', we managed to generate more publicity for the cause than ever before, but as always, we will aim to get more for wildlife on our next adventure whatever that will be”.
Bears about the House is available on BBC iPlayer now. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000kxz3 (UK Only)