Just over a year ago, Scottish documentary maker and cameraman Steve Mackay was stranded at sea, in fear for his life.
Filming a conservation expedition in the Arabic Sea – kayak4kuwait – as part of the K20 Expedition, he followed three kayakers who paddled more than 2300 kilometres in 90 days from Kuwait to Oman to highlight sea pollution and its impact on the marine environment.
Their 45ft ship, The Katherina, hit treacherous seas and struck rocks off the coast of the UAE.
“Due to the ship crew’s inexperience, I had to lead an evacuation of the ship. The Mast snapped in the second ship, The Aquarius, which was a more serious situation. It was nerve wracking and for a moment I thought we wouldn’t make it”.
Fast-forward 12 months and undeterred by his near-death experience, Steve, who has been Edinburgh-based for the past several years, is now embarking on his latest project, the Save the Lions Sanctuary.
“The project involves producing a short film for the charity Vision Africa – a conservation project which is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of African wildlife through practical solutions, education and awareness”.
Currently taking place in South Africa, the unique project rescues lions from so-called “canned” hunting farms where animals are bred to be shot by trophy hunters.
“The film aims to raise awareness for the charity in order to save these lions and their cubs’ lives.
“It will be circulated on social media in order to fight future ‘hunting to extinction’ organisations and poaching groups within Africa”.
“There are currently thousands of lions living in canned-hunting ‘incarcerated’ facilities throughout South Africa, which are predominantly stocked by the ‘cub-petting’ trade.
“The majority of these facilities are over-stocked, with lions living in cramped and horrendous conditions – some with as many as 25 lions in a 50m x 50m enclosure.
“They are destined for the ‘canned hunting industry’ and we are concerned they will also be part of the bone trade or other body part markets.”
Dedicated conservationists have been working relentlessly saving a group of lions for a long time now and the situation is becoming more urgent.
“Bad practices are happening there and the outlook for the lions is bleak. There are currently semi-wild camps of up to 50 acres each being erected which is enormous compared to what the lions have had to live in. This will allow them to undergo their rehabilitation in a safe sanctuary setting.
“We hope to film later in the year, so we can see these beautiful animals transformed and saved, then the plan is to pitch the TV pilot to the largest broadcasters worldwide in order to obtain development funds for a full TV Series called Sanctuary.
“My passion is for filming wildlife. Nature is an incredible experience and it holds true beauty and is great for the soul. I’ve filmed badgers, Indian elephants, the one horned rhino, red squirrels, the lynx, piranha, and alligators.”
“This is an important project as the lions require saving urgently and we have to move swiftly on this. We need to raise £25,000 to film the TV pilot for the organisation in Africa, so they can raise awareness internationally and transfer 150 adult lions and their cubs from the canned hunting farm in South Africa to Botswana.
“If we want to save these lions, the only way forward is to actually purchase the breeding farm, which we are focused on. Part of the work is also to provide immediate veterinary care to all the lions there, enlarge all the lion holding camps significantly and to provide enrichment and improve their quality of life.”
He added: “Ultimately we want the whole industry to stop but it will take time and long term, responsible work and strategies to effectively achieve this.
“We want to stop an industry so the filming is the first step in helping to make this happen.
“There will be a lot of resistance from the breeding and hunting industry, so everything must be documented correctly and truthfully to make the world aware of this problem”.
“Its our moral and spiritual duty to conserve our planet’s wildlife for our families’ future.
“What kind of world will our kids inherit if we don’t?
If you can help Steve raise funds for his latest project then please contact SteveMac71@outlook.com