24 May 2012
Late last year Born Free assisted popular TV presenter Simon Reeve on a trip to the Elephant Transit Home in Sri Lanka for his acclaimed new series Indian Ocean. The episode featuring his visit will air on BBC2 on Sunday 27th May, so Simon was kind enough to give us an interview about the new series, his time in Sri Lanka and why we all have to love wildlife!
BF - When did you first get the urge to travel so widely? ... and when were you first able to act on it?
SR - I always had the urge and the desire to travel, but I never really had the opportunity until I was in my 20s. I don’t come from a wealthy family who were always travelling abroad, and I wasn’t one of these teenagers who stowaway on a plane. I didn’t fly until I started working, and then the world began to open up for me.
BF - You have just been filming all over the Indian Ocean region. What do you think makes this part of the world so special?
SR - It’s a home to amazing history, ancient culture, some of the most beautiful islands on the planet and rare, exotic creatures. It’s vast – more than 6,000 miles from Africa to Australia – and it really matters right now because so much of our global trade and huge quantities of oil passes through the Indian Ocean. So I set out on a journey through 16 countries around the Indian Ocean, starting in South Africa and travelling up the east coast of Africa, around India and then back down through Indonesia to finish in south west Australia.
The adventure took me from the horrors of Mogadishu to the beauty of the Maldives. I went to some of the most incredible places on the planet, but the journey wasn’t just about sunny beaches. I’m really keen for viewers to understand more about the lives of people who live around the Indian Ocean, so the team and I delved into stories of poverty, conflict, drugs, smuggling, and piracy. We filmed amazing sights and dark issues, along with wildlife, history, current affairs and culture. It was fascinating to explore this incredible region, on a journey that showed me there’s so much more to the Indian Ocean than just gorgeous holiday islands. It’s a vast, stunning and tantalising area of our world
BF - The countries in this region have some of the highest human population densities on the planet – how do you think wildlife can survive alongside such intense human pressure?
SR - This is one of the great challenges facing us and our planet: how do we balance the needs of humans with the needs of wildlife and the natural world? At the moment nature is taking an absolute hammering, as we chop, burn, log and decimate the entire natural world. We’re fishing our seas to death, annihilating wildlife on land on an unprecedented scale, and threatening our own future. We all have to start giving a damn about the world we inhabit, and we have to stop using the planet’s resources at our current rate. To persuade people they need to rethink their behaviour we have to get them to really care about wildlife and love it. Which is why the work of Born Free and the ETH is so valuable.
BF - What was your favourite wildlife moment from this filming trip?
SR - There were endless wonderful moments. I loved swimming with giant manta rays in the Maldives and wild dolphins in Australia. They were memories I’ll treasure forever. But visiting the ETH in Sri Lanka was very special. I have a huge respect and love for elephants – I think they’re some of the most exceptional creatures that have ever walked our world, and seeing them at the ETH was an enormous privilege.
BF - What was the most memorable experience from your time in Sri Lanka?
SR - The ETH..! Sri Lanka is rightly known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean, and it’s got spectacular sights to offer visitors, but my favourite was the ETH.
BF - The orphan elephants at the Elephant Transit Home will be returned to a life in the wild – what do you think that means for them, as opposed to a life in captivity?
SR - Elephants need plenty of space to live and breathe and breed, and we all need to make sure they are given a safe and secure habitat, and protected from human encroachment, farming and development. I think releasing them into the wild will be a magnificent achievement and one we should all celebrate.
You can learn more about Simon’s journeys on his website at www.simonreeve.co.uk
and more about Born Free's work in Sri Lanka at www.bornfree.org.uk/srilanka