Use of film for community conservation education in primate habitat countries



Wildlife films have become an integral part of broadcast schedules in developed countries. As charismatic mammals, primates are frequently the focus of the wildlife filmmaker's attention. Yet the people watching these films tend to be situated on different continents from the species concerned. Communities in primate habitat countries are unlikely to ever have the opportunity to gain such an insight into the species with which they share their environment and the threats these species face. Over recent years, an increasing number of filmmakers are realizing the importance of reaching local audiences through film for conservation purposes. Published research on the impact films can have on eliciting conservation action in developed or developing countries is minimal. The perceived power of wildlife films to change attitudes and behaviors is largely based on anecdotal evidence. This commentary highlights the on-going debate regarding the conservation impact of wildlife films, discusses the work of various NGOs that are using films for conservation purposes in habitat countries and makes recommendations with regards to the film type and situational context necessary to promote positive conservation behavior in communities. Bespoke conservation films convey a specific message to a specific audience at a particular point in time. If produced by trained local conservation educators, these films are likely to have the biggest impact. Films must be shown as a part of a conservation education program that incorporates other education materials and group discussion so that the desired conservation message can be clearly defined and reinforced. Audiences should not be made to feel disillusioned, depressed or vilified by the content of wildlife films. Rather films should increase support for conservation and empower people to act. Once enthusiasm for specific conservation actions has been created, practical assistance and follow-up support is necessary to ensure ideas are implemented. Am. J. Primatol. 72:462–466, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.