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How is Guyana different from other Eco-Tourism spots?

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Several weeks ago, I interviewed Josh Liberman, a renowned wildlife filmmaker about his trip to Guyana. In our virtual conversation, I was surprised when he remarked the difficulty of this field. You see, when we think of wildlife shows, we associate it with:

  • amazing shots of animals (obviously) 
  • cool scenery 
  • A captivating voice over 
Camera equipment used by our featured person

However, we hardly hear about the work that goes into filming these wildlife shows. For wildlife filmmaking, a lot of preparation goes into deciding where to film, what equipment should be used to film, what settings are essential for filming etc. The narrator is often a selling point for popular wildlife documentaries but filmmakers can also be unrecognized by the wider public for the weeks of work they put into a project. Since filmmakers often work on a freelance basis, there is no absolute certainty of job security. As a result, many filmmakers have to rely on building their portfolio and their connections to consistently earn a living. 

For Josh Liberman, his calling for wildlife filmmaking occurred at the University of Miami where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. After studying, he decided to venture into wildlife photography by documenting fifty expeditions with the University of Miami Shark Research and Conservation Program. During our virtual chat, I asked Josh if he could recall the exact moment he decided to pursue this career. 

Josh Liberman, wildlife filmmaker

Josh: “It took me awhile to figure out that you could do wildlife photography as a career and I’m not sure that I’m completely doing that yet. Half of my time is spent doing wildlife work while another half of it is spent doing commercial work since there is a much bigger market for commercial work. I believe it’s important for people to diversify especially during this pandemic where it was so hard to do wildlife photography due to travel restrictions. 

I saw this as a pathway when I graduated from Undergrad by volunteering at a shark research organisation and I was strictly a photographer. I started as a photographer and I marketed myself as one but at the time, I didn’t really know what that meant. I wanted the qualifications, I wanted to put the time in, I wanted the connections and I wanted to tell stories that were important to me through photography. For over two years, I worked with this shark research team as they tagged sharks and conducted research. This program gained a lot of attention from networks such as the Discovery Channel and National Geographic. I developed further interest in this field when I saw these production crews come out to document the sharks. Within these production crews, I saw a team of experts who specialized in production, direction, sound recording etc. Each person had a role in creating the story. It was the first time in my life that I felt something ‘clicked’ and I realized that this should be my career path.” 

I actually found out about Josh through Instagram. Guyana’s Tourism Authority had reposted a photo that he shared on his profile about his trip to Guyana. So then I thought, “hmmmm this would make a great article”. Then, I pulled CSI type skills by looking through all of his socials and coming to the conclusion that I should reach out to him.  

Behind the lens of telling a story

From January 10th to January 21st 2021 , Josh and his team from A Wild Connection (more on them later) had captured over 4 TB of footage! This was their first visit to Guyana and from Josh’s enthusiasm it definitely won’t be their last! He stated that he was in awe of the sheer amount of wildlife here in Guyana. When asked about the similarities between the wildlife in Florida and Guyana, Josh had this to say:

“In Florida and many other places, you have pockets of wildlife. Some areas can have huge national parks while other areas may have smaller parks. Unfortunately, many of these areas are often located in urban communities where you may see a highway or even get cellphone reception. What makes Guyana so different from these other areas is that you can completely immerse yourself with nature and its wildlife. I was amazed at the diversity of species of birds in Guyana. It was mind blowing. James Currie, host/producer of A Wild Connection and world renowned bird expert was working with me and almost every thirty seconds, he would call out a new bird from his binoculars. I’ve never seen that before. You don’t really get these sorts of experiences in the United States or any sort of place where there isn’t such a large, protected, pristine area like Guyana. I found that very special about Guyana.” 

A Wild Connection’s journey to Guyana with host James Currie (pictured in first panel)

During A Wild Connection’s stay in Guyana, Josh and James visited six locations:

  • Georgetown 
  • Lethem 
  • Wichabi Ranch 
  • Karanambu Lodge 
  • Waikin Ranch 
  • Caiman House 
Richard Peter, Head Vacquero, Wichabai Ranch
Behind the scenes of Josh capturing a story

For this campaign, these locations were carefully selected by the team behind A Wild Connection to tell specific stories about the wildlife in each area and its surrounding communities. Josh reflected that the Eco-tourism in these areas are almost fully executed and supported by indigenous populations. In many Eco-tourism spots, guides or researchers are often from outside of the community but Guyana is an exception. With our Eco-tourism, our indigenous populations proudly showcase their wildlife and culture as their knowledge was traditionally passed down from generation to generation. 

During the trip, Josh shared that the anteater was his favorite animal to document since they had to be careful with proceeding to film the anteater. Since anteaters are almost completely deaf and blind, their sense of smell plays a key role in foraging food. To avoid the anteater from being spooked or changing its behavior, A Wild Connection had to follow the direction of the wind to ensure that their smell won’t be picked up by the anteater.

A Wild Connection documenting the Giant Anteater’s movement

At Wichabi Ranch, Erin Earl mentioned new behaviors that they’ve documented from studying anteaters for years. 

Erin Earl, Giant Anteater researcher
Behind the scenes of Josh filming Erin Earl’s work

The river otters provided a challenge for Josh as they had to come up with a new strategy to document these shy creatures. With television and digital media making information so accessible, many persons have already seen most animals. It is up to wildlife photographers and videographers to provide a new perspective that you probably would’ve never expected. Since you can’t direct animals on how or where to pose, wildlife photographers and videographers have their work cut out for them. At Karanambu Lodge, Josh received a lot of guidance from Kenneth Mandook on the best spot to capture well-framed shots of the river otters coming in and out of their dens. Over several days, Josh wore camouflage clothing and covered himself with a blind in anticipation of capturing new footage of river otters’ behavior. He considered this to be a very rewarding task as they captured a family of twelve river otters (8 adults and four pups) behaving naturally in their habitat. 

Kenneth Mandook, Lead Guide, Karanambu Lodge 
Josh taking a selfie to pass the time

In Late April to Early May, we can expect two full length episodes on giant anteaters and river otters which will be posted on A Wild Connection’s Youtube channel. Discover Guyana will also be sharing content on their social media channels from this campaign. The biggest goal for this collaborative project between the Guyana Tourism Authority and A Wild Connection is to promote Guyana’s wildlife and the indigenous people who have consistently worked on protecting the environment that they love. 

Staff of Caiman House Yupukari

*A Wild Connection is a program that aims to provide awareness to the connection between humans and animals in communities. Every episode of the program features an individual and an animal or an animal species. For every episode, the highlighted individual talks about their experience with the animal/species in their community and how it may have impacted their life or livelihood.* 

For more information on A Wild Connection, you can visit the attached platforms below:

Website: https://www.awildconnection.com/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/awildconnection

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/awildconnection/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/awildconnection/

You can also check out Josh on the following platforms:

Website: https://www.joshliberman.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joshlibermanphotography/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/josh_liberman/?hl=en 

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