The Bigger Picture
The Bigger Picture is a unique collaboration using art, photography and film to raise funding and awareness for anti-poaching teams in Zambia – discover more here and at the Mall Galleries this summer…
In 2016, Freddy Paske had recently left the British Army to pursue his passion as a wildlife artist. It was during this busy year that he met Dave Mackay; another army veteran who had recently completed a first class degree in photography. Yearning for adventure again they decided to join their new found professions with 29 years of combined military experience and set their sights on the world of conservation and a very different type of war zone.
“The Bigger Picture project was designed with one specific aim: to raise funding and awareness for the men and women on the front line of conservation,” explains Dave.
To do this, Freddy and Dave teamed up with professional charity fundraiser Liz Parker, who secured full sponsorship for the project and helped complete the team with award winning documentary film maker Dieter Deswarte. With support from DSWF, they headed to Zambia to work alongside anti-poaching teams and to document their experience through art, photography and film.
The journey began this February at the Elephant Orphanage Project in Lusaka.
“It was a potent introduction to the effects of poaching,” says Freddy. “The orphans are the surviving victims of a vicious trade which has claimed their mothers. With meticulous care, the keepers watch over the juveniles 24/7 with one thing in mind; to release them back into the wild.”
“They take this ethos very seriously and as a result physical human contact is reduced to a minimum,” adds Dave. “As we photographed and filmed the keepers going about their tireless daily routine, it was clear to see how difficult it is to maintain this stand-off attitude. We all soon realised that the distance is there to help keeper as well as elephant part company at the age of three years – the time the orphans are moved from the nursery up to the release facility in Kafue National Park.”
After a few days with the nursery orphans the team travelled out to the centre of Kafue National Park, home to the Special Anti-Poaching Unit (SAPU). This elite team was to be their guide for the rest of the month.
Charged with being at the tip of the anti-poaching spear, they work with carefully sourced intelligence to conduct specific strikes and arrests.
“Needless to say their workload is exponential,” says Dave. “At 22,500km2, Kafue is one of the largest national parks in Africa and therefore one of the hardest to patrol. It takes them four days in unreliable vehicles to reach the edge of the park, rain permitting. More importantly, it takes them just as long to return which can mean life or death for an injured ranger. With these factors at play it is not surprising that poachers conduct most of their operations in the hard to access areas.”
Throughout the following weeks the team joined the SAPU patrols; photographing, sketching and filming their way around Kafue National Park. Keeping equipment dry was a constant problem and for a team accustomed to the relative comforts of good military equipment it was admirable to see the rangers operating in these conditions in just a pair of gum boots.
A poignant reminder of the difficulties of operating in the area hit home when the team’s convoy was bogged down during a resupply. After 24 hours of digging they finally released their vehicles and could deliver the rations.
“Rainy season lasts for four months and this journey needs to be done at least every month,” explains Freddy. “Having seen first-hand what is required of a Kafue ranger, The Bigger Picture team now understands how vital it is to raise awareness of their work and funding to support supplies and equipment.”
The body of work that the team collected will create a powerful exhibition – the first of its kind – by providing a unique visual exploration into life on a very different front line.
The Bigger Picture will be exhibited in the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries alongside the 10th anniversary of DSWF’s Wildlife Artist of the Year and aims to help raise over £40,000 for the Kafue rangers.
Join the team on Thursday 29 June for a film screening and exclusive panel discussion hosted by Lt. General Sir Graeme Lamb KBE CMG DSO former director of UK Special Forces and Commander of the British Field Army. Click here for ticket details
This article was first published in the spring 2017 edition of Wildlife Matters – DSWF’s supporter magazine