Uncaged: saving China’s songbirds from the poachers’ nets – 2019
*Pictures of the Year – Award of Excellence in Daily Life Documentary Category, 2020.* – In the forests on the outskirts of Beijing, birds hang silently from the trees, lifeless, entwined in nets. Bird poaching has become a silent epidemic across China, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of migratory birds each year. They are caught each spring and autumn as they pass through the country, flying between Siberia and South East Asia, and are captured for the pet trade and for consumption as food.
This documentary follows Gu Xuan, a young Chinese conservationist, determined to break this cycle of death and destruction on the bird populations he loves. In the nation’s capital, he single-handedly tracks down and confronts poachers as they illegally trap and sell birds. Risking his own safety in the face of abuse and intimidation, his determination and devotion to these animals drives him to continue, hoping for a day when they are fully protected.
EXOTIC: The Rise of Alternative Pets in China – 2017
It is estimated that up to one million people own exotic pets in China.
These pets are defined as non-traditional ones, such as snakes, monkeys, crocodiles, spiders, and tropical birds, mainly to be displayed in the homes of China’s expanding and more affluent middle classes.
The trade in these animals has been directly linked to species loss in some of the world’s most threatened ecosystems, as well as contributing to a rapid rise in invasive species.
The global illegal wildlife trade is estimated to generate hundred of millions of dollars annually, although exact figures are hard to come by.
What is known is that the trafficking of animals is seeing a global spike in occurrence, leading to many species becoming increasingly threatened and significantly contributing to the current worldwide biodiversity extinction crisis.
Due to the scale of exotic pet ownership in China, it is a significant environmental issue as more affluent consumers turn to these types of animals as pets, fuelling the destruction and damage to ecosystems across the world.
The Broken Land – Drought in India – 2016
In the summer of 2016, parts of India experienced record drought as a result of consecutive failed monsoons.
Sean Gallagher travelled to the region of Marathwada, in the western state of Maharashtra, identified as the country’s worst affected area where up to 15,000 villages were believed to be without water.
This short film focuses on the personal stories of people from communities whose lives were being affected by the drought, documenting the long and dangerous journeys people are taking to find water, how the stresses placed on farmers are forcing many to suicide and the creation of environmental refugees who flee drought-stricken land for cities.
Global temperature records were broken each month in 2016 and India itself recorded its highest temperature of 51C. In conjunction with El Nino effects, this caused extreme environmental stresses in large parts of the country.
As global temperatures continue to rise, the record drought of 2016 is predicted to be a recurring event in a country that is struggling to adapt to a warming world.
The Toxic Price of Leather – 2014
On the banks of the Ganges River in northern India, lies the city of Kanpur.
It has become one of the most important cities in India as its leather industry has grown and it is now the biggest producer of leather products in the whole country.
First established in the mid 19th Century, the city’s leather is exported across the world, with 95% of its leather destined for western markets including those in the US, UK and Germany.
This success is coming at great environmental and social costs that are destroying the local Ganges River ecology and scarring the local people in the form of life-threatening illnesses.
The city is now notorious for having some of the country’s worst water pollution which has been created by the leathery tannery industry which discharges waste water laced with toxic chemicals, such as chromium, freely into local waterways.
This water is used by local people and is channeled onto local farmland, subsequently poisoning the soil, entering the food chain and accumulating in local ecosystems. At greatest risk are the people who work in the tanneries and farmers who work daily with the toxic, and highly acidic water.
An array of health problems now afflict locals who are suffering as a result of the bioaccumulation of dangerous toxins over the past decades. Health problems include cancers, mental health problems, child development issues and skin diseases.
“The Toxic Price of Leather presents a very human story about the ramifications of widespread consumerism and those wounded in its never-ending appetite.” —Jenna Garrett, FeatureShoot.com