I’ll tell you how the sun rose that morning in Tsavo National Park, Kenya – just like all other mornings for days on end. There’s nothing casual about mid-February sun in Tsavo. It rises early and immediately unleashes an inescapable tsunami of heat across the land. Then, happy with its work, the sun stands guard in a cloudless sky, both like a fierce sentinel and a tyrannous explorer, relentlessly finding every tiny crevasse and crack in the parched land. Dancing heat along the horizon shimmers and sparkles as if in great celebration of the quest.
Across these southern plains of Kenya, communities of termites are building their mounds. They excavate nutrient-rich soil from deep underground and transport it to the surface, building their structures higher and higher, reaching to the sky, seeking fruitlessly to touch any possible breeze. But there is none. Not yet. Not until the deluge of the rains come in March.
The dirt the termites excavate is packed with minerals and nutrients not available otherwise in the surrounding soil of the plains. Over time, battered by seasonal rains, wind, heat and wildlife, the mounds eventually erode and leave large patches of bare soil filled with nutrients. These patches dot the landscape like freckles across the dusty plains.
They are a perfect visiting spot for families of elephants, who are drawn to the patches for the rich nutrients and salts in the clay…. minerals the elephants need for survival.
The elephant families come and dig into the patches, scraping up the nutrient-rich soil with their feet and tusks and leaving behind an indented area. Slowly, over time, the indented clay patch becomes deeper and deeper as more elephants visit. Then it rains.
Rainy season brings with it a deluge of life-giving water and the fine, mineral-rich clay of the patches becomes sticky mud. The elephants love it – they dig in it and spray the mud on themselves and each other. They wallow in it and roll in it and splash it all over themselves. The mud coats their bodies, head to toe, keeping them cool and protecting them from sunburn and biting flies.
Each elephant family carries away up to a ton of mud with them, so the indented freckle becomes a larger indented spot, and eventually a deeper hole that continues to widen and deepen with each visit. Within a few years, what the termites started, and the elephants created, becomes a full watering hole. An oasis in the plains, full of life….
This was part of the story shared in the independent documentary film “The Elephant and the Termite”- one of 35 powerful and exhilarating documentaries shown at the 9th Annual New York Wild Film Festival.
The Elephant and the Termite won the Best Cinematography award and it was easy to see why.
The film was enchanting and stunning – silhouettes of elephants against an orange sunset, the deep greens of chameleons poised perfectly on seasonal grasses, drinking crystal clear drops of water, underwater shots and close-ups of wildlife of all types (birds, insects, mammals). It was hard to pull myself away from the film!
The festival ran 4 days, and I was super-excited to be chosen to volunteer for a shift on Saturday, welcoming guests and generally helping guests however and wherever possible.
There were a team of volunteers who helped check people in, provided guidance to find film showings and reception areas, answered questions, helped usher people to their seats, organized gift baskets, helped set up and break-down, and more
While films were in process the volunteers had opportunity to watch some of the films from a separate viewing area. It was inspiring and emotional to watch parts of the films!
The NY WILD Film Festival is the first annual film festival in NY to showcase a spectrum of topics that bring attention to wildlife, conservation, exploration, and the environment. It is held every March.
More than ever, people are fascinated with the natural world and phenomenon that affects it. There is a quickly-awakening awareness of human impact on our planet and a growing feeling of urgency to live differently in order to save it.
People want to connect with our planet and understand how to do better for the natural world.
The NY WILD Film Festival provides an active platform creating excitement around crucial issues, gives a voice to critical issues, builds important partnerships with key players in exploration and conservation, highlights dedicated scientists and explorers, celebrates filmmakers, and reaches growing audiences – spreading energy around protecting our planet. Films run anywhere between 5 and 90 minutes.
There were films by filmmakers from all over the world (USA, Brazil, France, China, Mexico, Kenya, Canada and more) and that diversity of experience and perspective was truly inspiring. The festival also includes Q&A sessions with filmmakers, explorers and experts.
It was exhilarating for ticket-holders to be able to watch the films, be moved by the powerful images and storytelling of the filmmakers, and then meet the heroes protecting our planet for Q&A sessions.
There were various receptions, award presentations, and on-line auction, and even a family program for children ages 7+.
The festival presented an extraordinary opportunity to exchange ideas and effect change. Over 300 films were originally submitted, which were initially vetted by a group of pre-screeners, who chose a large number of films to go to a Final Jury for selection of the final 35.
The festival runs in partnership with The Explorers Club (the festival was held in its NYC location), the WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), FujiFilm, Acr’teryx, Flite, and The New Yorker Documentary.
I left that day feeling that while there is much to do to save the planet, there is an extensive network of passionate, powerful, action-oriented teams of people looking to solve issues and make the world a better place for future generations! I am inspired to get more involved in making a difference and continuing to learn more about the synergistic human-wildlife-planet experience. Each of us already have impact – it’s up to us to make that impact positive or negative.
How do you celebrate the wild? What passions do you have for the planet? Leave me a comment below.
If you’re interested in learning more about the New York WILD Film Festival, to join their mailing list and to keep an eye out for tickets for next year’s festival, check out their site here: https://nywildfilmfestival.com/
This is the link to the inspiring and powerful trailer for the 2023 film festival here (you’ll be glad you watched it and I bet you can’t just watch it once): https://vimeo.com/802503624
If you’d like to learn more about my favorite film of the day I volunteered, The Elephant and the Termite, PBS has a learning media site with clips: https://ny.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/nat40-creating-waterholes-video/elephant-and-termite-nature-season-40/
If you are a member of PBS Thirteen Passport, you can watch the film in entirety here: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/elephant-and-termite-about-depsre/26434/
A note about The Explorer’s Club – As hosting partner to the festival, The Explorers Club is a perfect location for the event. Founded in New York City in 1904 by a group of the world’s leading explorers of the time, the not-for-profit organization is dedicated to scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space by supporting research and education in the physical, natural and biological sciences.
The Club’s members have been responsible for an illustrious series of famous firsts: first to the North Pole, first to the South Pole, first to the summit of Mount Everest, first to the deepest point in the ocean, first to the surface of the moon.
The building is stunning – 5 floors filled with artifacts and photos from explorations and scientific breakthroughs. You can spend hours just looking around!
You can learn more about the Explorer’s Club and their programs and public events here: https://www.explorers.org/
Thank you for joining my journey! XO XO