UWE graduate helps spread gorilla conservation message using pedal power

Issue date: 17 April 2014

Pedal power - The pedal powered cinema for GAFI

UWE documentary film graduate Emma Tyrrell is using pedal power to help bring wildlife conservation messages to young people in the UK and Africa.

Emma, who graduated from UWE with a masters' degree in 2005, now works for Reef and Wildlife (RAW), an organisation that matches volunteers to wildlife conservation projects in East Africa.

One of RAW's latest projects that Emma is working on is in the mountains of Uganda, close to the borders with Rwanda and Congo.

Emma said, “I am just about to spend four weeks in Mgahinga, in the South West of Uganda, a mountainous area which is one of the last habitats of endangered species such as the mountain gorilla and the golden monkey. During my time there I will be helping integrate volunteers with a range of programmes that are designed both to benefit the local community economically and preserve the environment and wildlife.

“Local community groups are striving to provide a sustainable, environmentally and economically viable future for their families.

“While I am there I hope to meet up with Sandy Gray, who founded the Mgahinga project and has been described as today's Dian Fossey for her work with the golden monkeys of Uganda, and with primate expert Denis Agaba of the Great Apes Film Initiative.”

Last year Emma toured the UK visiting schools for GAFI (Great Ape Film Initiatiive) with Denis. The tour culminated at a successful fundraiser in London attended by David Attenborough, and Virginia McKenna and Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation.

She continued, “We took the pedal-powered cinema round the UK showing Great Ape Conservation films, sponsored via the Bristol Bike Project. The children were mesmerised and it was a huge success. We ended up with a number of schools twinning with schools in Uganda, where Denis lives. The children can swap letters, and UK schools have raised fund for the schools in Uganda.

“Raising awareness with the next generation both in the UK and in Uganda has a positive impact on the gorillas in Uganda who are subject to poaching.

“We are hoping to do another pedal-powered tour in the UK next autumn.”

Emma dates her interest in using film to spread conservation methods to her time at UWE. “My passion for conservation started when I worked as a volunteer at Wildscreen and at Bristol Zoo as an animal handler and presenter on weekends. This highlighted my dream of working with animals and using media as a tool to highlight the truth about conservation issues.”

She has travelled the world many times, including Asia, the USA, Africa and Australia. She worked for Greenpeace's media department, as a producer for the National Geographic channel, and researched a Discovery Channel feature documentary about seals and great white sharks off the coast of Australia.

Other conservation projects that Emma's organisation is involved with include cheetah monitoring and marine mammal programmes in Kenya.

See UWE's MA in Wildlife Filmmaking for more information on studying for a masters' degree designed in partnership with the BBC's Natural History Unit.

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