Wild Productions films ACES for Animal Planet Series
Saturday, February 25th, 2012
UK based Wild Productions Limited arrived in San Pedro on February 7th for a two-week filming session with Vince Rose and Cherie Chenot-Rose of American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES). The footage will be used for an episode on Wildlife SOS a Discovery Channel series that is now in its 15th year and 10th series. The popular series focuses on capturing the most challenging situations that wildlife rehabbers face around the world, including animal cruelty, illegal captivity, habitat destruction, and the illegal poaching and sale of protected animals and their parts. The renowned program is regarded as one of the longest-running animal rescue TV series. Wildlife SOS founder, host, writer and managing director Simon Cowell, MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) has been filming wildlife for the past 30 years, with an emphasis on education and getting people to care about animals. “When they grow to care about the animal, they then have a reason to conserve,” stated Cowell in an interview with The San Pedro Sun. Cowell, who sports a mischievous grin, also founded The Wildlife Aid Foundation and emanates an infectious passion for wildlife. The foundation’s Wild Aid Hospital, located in Leatherhead, Surrey, UK cares for thousands of rescued wild animals each year; where they are treated, rehabilitated and more often than not returned to the wild.
A first time visit to Belize for the well travelled production team; Cowell, along with producer, creative director and cameraman James Incledon and cameraman, editor Jason Giberti immediately took to the ground, interviewing and filming the husband and wife team that makes up ACES. Producer James Incledon first learned about ACES when he came across a short video produced by San Pedro based Island Films called “What does ACES do?” The action-packed video was enough for him to place a call to Cherie, and when asked about filming them on location, Cherie exclaimed, “We were excited to share our crocodilian conservation efforts here in Belize, so of course we said yes! Belize is one of the last strong-holds for this threatened apex predator and the more we can share with the world our efforts here on Ambergris Caye and countrywide to protect, study, rehabilitate and conserve the American Crocodile the better chance they have of surviving.” Although a handful of other international filming companies have documented ACES, this will be the first time an entire episode will be dedicated to their story.
Filming began the same day the crew arrived and one of their shoots documented ACES capturing a 6ft female American Crocodile at the WASA Lagoon. It was noted that the crocodile had been captured before in April of 2011. During the first capture, they discovered that the crocodile was missing a section of its tail. It is believed that poachers had removed the tail in order to illegally sell the meat. While the crocodile can survive without a portion of its tail, it is at a distinct disadvantage when in its natural habitat. During the second capture on February 7th it was observed that the crocodile had lost its left hind leg. ACES believe that it was bitten off by another crocodile. Once caught, ACES and film crew relocated the crocodile via boat to a pristine habitat in northern Ambergris Caye. Other filming on the island included rescuing a crocodile from a resort swimming pool, relocating two crocodiles from the WASA Lagoon where illegal feeding of the animals as a tourist attraction is still in practice, and accessing the health of crocodiles living in the San Pedro sewage ponds by collecting scute samples that will be tested for toxicity.
Days later ACES and the production team traveled to Punta Gorda, where the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary was first started eight years ago. The film team was especially interested in telling the story of how the facility succumbed to arson in September 2010. Only their second time at the site since the tragic event, it was a very emotional and tearful interview with the heartbroken couple. Standing within the charred remains of their home and compound they built by hand, the setting was a powerful reminder of what they have experienced in the name of wildlife conservation. “People don’t realize how challenging it can be for those who have dedicated their lives to protecting wildlife. The adversity can be tremendous, and even deadly at times. Despite it all their passion drives them to continue their work. Most people would have just given up after a tragedy like this; but not Vince and Cherie,” commented Cowell after the interview. While in Punta Gorda the camera crew filmed ACES capturing a croc from one of their holding pens and driving it to their new facility in Ladyville. There they will assess the health of the animal and may relocate it to the wild if deemed healthy enough. After filming with ACES, the Wild Productions team covered an in-water sea turtle survey with Ecomar at Gallow’s Point and then travelled to Sartenja to film monkeys and manatees at Wildtracks.
“Filming with Wild Productions was the experience of a life time! It will give ACES and Belize international exposure and greatly enhance funding for our croc conservation and education efforts. Personally, the entire film crew was a pleasure to work with and we made some fantastic friends as well. Working as their ‘fixer’ and liaison with the Belize Film Commission I also gained the opportunity to travel with them and experienced other conservation efforts in Belize, such as Ecomar and Wildtracks; all great people working to protect endangered species in Belize. I would like to especially thank Island Films for without their donated sizzle-reel “What does ACES do?’, Wild Productions may not have found us. Other thanks on the island go to Exotic Caye Resort, Xanadu, Maya Island Air, Belize Water Supply, Billie Harmouch, and of course The San Pedro Sun,” commented Cherie Rose.
The series is scheduled to air later this year on Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet.
For more information about ACES please visit their website at http://americancrocodilesanctuary.org/ and for more information about Wildlife SOS/Wildlife Aid please visit http://www.wildlifeaid.org.uk/.
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