Wildlife Warriors – African made films shine a light on conservation success stories
Written by Dr. Paula Kahumu, CEO of WildlifeDirect and producer and presenter of Wildlife Warriors
Wildlife Warriors breaks new ground as the first TV wildlife documentary series made by Africans, about Africans and for Africans. Our goal is to shine a light on Africa’s unsung conservation heroes to inspire a new generation of conservationists to follow their example.
The series is the brainchild of my organization, Kenya-based WildlifeDirect. Season 1 featured 14 amazing heroines and heroes working on the front line of wildlife conservation. It was first aired on Kenyan media giant Citizen TV in 2019, reaching 51% of the population, and has since been re-broadcast several times in Kenya, as well as being made available on streaming services to viewers in 26 African countries and across the world. Season 2 is more ambitious, with higher production values. It was launched in Kenya earlier this year and has already won 4 international awards at the International Wildlife Films Festival (IWFF) and Pridelands Film Festival (PWFF), whose judging panel commended Wildlife Warriors “for its contributions to changing behaviour, changing the narrative and empowering the next generation of filmmakers and wildlife protectors”. At IWFF, the episode on protecting elephants in northern Kenya “The Royal Elephants of Samburu” won The Best Youth Program award, while the entire Wildlife Warriors was awarded Best Series. The third prize was the Special Jury award awarded to me for my contribution within the field of wildlife television and for serving as a role model for Wildlife Warriors’ audience of school-aged children and beyond. Wildlife Warriors is the only wildlife documentary series made in Africa by Africans for an African audience. At PWFF, The entire Wildlife Warrior series won the Special Jury award.
Wildlife Warriors is a celebration of African creativity and enterprise. In Season 2 we meet African scientists pushing the boundaries of scientific research, communities who have banded together to create new protected areas, tribal elders defending sacred forests, and fisherfolk restoring dying coral reefs.
Audiences in Kenya have responded enthusiastically. The programs have inspired them to visit national parks to see the wildlife featured in the episodes for themselves, to engage with the issues by finding out more and signing petitions, and to take action to improve their local environment. Thousands of children have joined Wildlife Warriors Kids clubs in schools, where, in addition to classroom activities based around TV series, club members interact with nature through visits to National Parks and observing local wildlife. The clubs also carry out innovative projects in their communities, including tree planting and waste recycling schemes
The series has brought new recognition to the conservation heroes featured in the episodes, helping to increase local support for their projects and attract more funding. Heroes featured in Season 1 have won prestigious international awards and scholarships for postgraduate study at leading universities and research institutes.
Wildlife Warriors is also transforming the African filmmaking landscape. When we started, African wildlife filmmakers were thin on the ground, and we struggled to find and train a crew. The success of the series has stimulated enormous interest in wildlife documentaries among African broadcasters and film production companies, and now international producers are investing in training African talent. The demand for African-made wildlife films is not restricted to Kenya and that’s why WildlifeDirect is currently working in 5 African countries on another series which will be launched later this year.
We are tremendously excited to be in Kigali, Rwanda for the Africa Protected Areas Congress to showcase our work to our brothers and sisters from across the continent. Episodes were screened at various venues at APAC. WildlifeDirect’s main event was in room AD11 on the 20th of July. We also screened at the Conservation Alliance of Kenya (CAK) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Kenya pavilions on Tuesday 19th and Friday 22nd of July respectively. Participants can also contact us to get access to watch the series online. It is our hope that very soon Rwandans will be able to enjoy both seasons of Wildlife Warriors on Rwandan TV. We also hope to include Rwandan conservation heroes in Season 3, which we would love to produce in partnership with Rwandan filmmakers, to showcase the country’s outstanding conservation successes.
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