Essay: Are wildlife films good for nature conservation

01-02-2019 – WUR – Wageningen

Wildlife films can act as an effective tool to educate and raise awareness about nature, and to foster conservation behavior. To achieve this, it is essential to consider the following aspects. First of all, what is your target audience? Most viewers do not want to watch wildlife films with a conservation message and sometimes by reaching only local audiences the film will have the biggest impact. Furthermore, depending on what type of film one makes, either a ‘blue-chip film’ or a ‘conservation film’, one reaches different audiences and different conservation goals.

Secondly, although anthropomorphism can give viewers an unrealistic image of nature, it is also an important strategy to engage viewers in the film and it helps to foster conservation behavior. Thirdly, the impact of nature films on viewers increases when providing the moviegoers with follow-up support. This support can range from handing out bumper stickers to integrated education program.

I conclude that there is no single approach for wildlife films to educate and activate the viewer. Different budgets, aims and subjects lead to different films. There is also no single right or wrong approach. De Nieuwe Wildernis is an example of a film that required a specific approach. My theory is that this film had negative consequences because of a something specific to the this film, the area and its management. I suspect that the use of anthropomorphism caused an intimate bond between viewers and the animals, one in which the viewers relate to the emotions of the animals. In contrast, the type management of the area requires a different ethical view on the animals. This view requires a more distant relationship with the animals. Perhaps these two contrasting visions collided and caused the ethical discussion. Ruben smit, co-director of the Nieuwe Wildernis has a hopeful viewpoint. He states that no matter what type of film you make, be it a blue-chip or a conservation film, as long as it’s a good film, it will reach a large audience.