In the 1970’s the world was slowly waking up to the devastating levels of tropical deforestation. At that time, international wildlife conservation was focussed almost entirely on the protection of single species. Little attention was being paid to the larger picture of the total ecosystem and the importance of these natural places to the people who depend on them.
In 1977, Phil Agland travelled to Cameroon with the intention of helping to create a programme of conservation that would try to address the central challenge of making rainforest conservation relevant to the lives of local people. An essential prerequisite was to be the making of a film that would focus international attention on the extraordinary biodiversity of tropical forests. Its purpose was to focus attention on one forest in particular – Korup. An ancient ‘refuge’ forest reserve on the border with Nigeria, known at that time to local people and a handful of research scientists, lead by Dr. J. Stephen Gartlan.
Working in Korup was to prove a challenge. Not only had Agland not shot a film before, but Korup proved to be one of the wettest forests in the world, with almost continuous rain for 8 months. Filming entirely alone, Agland combined Korup with a summer job painting houses to pay for the film stock. The next five years was to be a process of painstaking accumulation of behavioural and ecological sequences, often filmed high in the canopy, pioneering such novel techniques as Image Intensified filming at night. The work led ultimately to the finished film, Korup: An African Rainforest that was to become Channel 4’s first natural history film, broadcast in November 1982.
The film was chosen to spearhead WWF’s 1982 Campaign to ‘Save the World’s Rainforests’ and the Earthlife Foundation’s Campaign to support the designation of Korup as a National Park, supported by a programme of sustainable development in the designated buffer zone adjacent to the Park.
An official showing of the film to the British Government in 1986, in the presence of Sir Crispin Tickell, head of the ODA, led directly to a grant of £440,000 to the Korup project – the first such Government grant to rainforest conservation.
This grant was followed by grants from the United States, the European Union, and the Dutch and German Governments and a multi-million dollar programme administered by WWF.
Korup was officially declared Cameroun’s first Rainforest National Park in November 1986.
As of 2012, Korup continues to receive significant international funding and remains the focus of a multi-national sustainable development programme.
Fragile Earth: A series of six programmes including the award winning Siarau and Selva Verde.
Fragile Earth Retrospective
Baka: People of the Rainforest
Baka: Komba’s Forest
Baka: Growing Up
Follow-up film: Baka: A Cry from the Rainforest http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0192w60
Beyond the Clouds
Spirits, Ghosts and Demons
A French Affair
Love and Death in Shanghai
Director: Phil Agland
Producers: Phil Agland and Michael Rosenberg
Partridge Films Limited
By Jason Peters