Scientists are racing to preserve Madagascar’s trove of unique flora and fauna as deforestation threatens the African island’s diverse plant and animal wealth. And these riches keep growing as researches discover more and more endemic species in its rainforests. Extinction of Madagascar’s lemurs would cause a ‘extinction cascade’ event scientists warn. (Image: Royal Botanic Gardens Kew)Sulaiman PhilipEcological researchers continue to discover new plant and animal species in Madagascar’s forests. In the last 15 years they have discovered 600 new species. According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report, 385 plants, 42 invertebrates, 17 fish, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles and 41 mammals have been discovered on Madagascar.These species are found nowhere else on Earth and now they are under threat as farmers clear-cut the forests to make way for agriculture – or to sell the timber. In a country where most live on less than a dollar a day, the country’s biodiversity comes second to the need to earn a living and feed your family.Saving the island nation’s plant kingdom has become the enterprise of a team of botanists from the Royal Botanic Garden in Kew, England. The team, led by Solofo Eric Rakotoarisoa, trek into the forests, clamber up limestone cliffs and cross submerged roads to collect seeds to be stored in the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew Gardens. Seeds harvested in Madagascar are flown to the temperature controlled seed bank in Kew, England. (Image: Royal Botanic Gardens Kew) The project is a race against extinction. Once the seeds are collected, they are sorted and labelled, and then flown to the UK for safeguarding. In the freezer botanists have already stored 1 800 seeds from Madagascar’s 13 000 plant species.Since 2009, poverty, logging, mining and climate change have speeded up deforestation as the nation became poorer after former president Marc Ravalomanana was deposed and donor funding was suspended. Since the 1950s tavy, a slash and burn technique that clears forests for farming, charcoal production, and illegal logging, has led to four-fifths of the island’s forests being cleared.Rakotoarisoa has sounded the alarm. “It’s getting to the point where it’s really obvious the forests are disappearing. It’s getting worse and worse [the slash and burn clearances]; the poverty in Madagascar is increasing.”The aim of the Kew Gardens botanists is to create a storehouse of seeds that can be used to replace extinct plants. To head off that Armageddon, Madagascar’s population will need to understand the value of protecting the island’s biodiversity.As Mark Wright, a conservation adviser at WWF-UK, points out: “If they have no practical way of making a living, of course they are going to turn to the natural resources sector and see what they can get from that, and who wouldn’t do it?”Discoveries like the new species of wild coffee plant can be cultivated as a cash crop. Coffee, the most traded commodity after oil, would require protection of the remaining habitats while allowing families to earn a living.Love lemurs? Go see them nowKing Julien: “Don’t be alarmed, giant freaks! While you were asleep, we simply took you to our little corner of heaven. Welcome to Madagascar.” ‘Lemur’ means ghost in Latin, with wide-eyed, eerie stares and night time activity, it is easy to see how these spectre-like figures of Madagascar’s forests got their name. (Image: Royal Botanic Gardens Kew) Unlike the lemurs in the movie, Madagascar’s long-tailed primates are in danger of losing their habitat and becoming extinct. The suspension of donor funding after the 2009 coup has sped up the destruction of the country’s forests and the habitats of the fabled wildlife.After the coup, donors and lending agencies suspended or ended all non-humanitarian aid. Madagascar’s national park system received 80% of its budget from donors, and these sanctions devastated their ability to protect the island’s wildlife and plant life.Or, as lemur expert and president of Conservation International Russell A Mittermaier explained: “Madagascar’s real brand, the real competitive advantage, is this unique biodiversity. By cutting the funding, we’re not just hurting Madagascar, we’re hurting the world as a whole.”Lemurs represent Brand Madagascar. They offer the promise of observing rare species in their natural habitat, and experience in Africa – Rwanda and Uganda’s mountain gorilla programmes – show that eco-tourists are prepared to pay a premium for the privilege.Extinction of the lemur population would lead to what primatologist Christoph Schwitzer refers to as an extinction cascade. “Lemurs have important ecological and economic roles, and are essential to maintaining Madagascar’s unique forests through seed dispersal and attracting income through ecotourism.”Co-ordinated conservation is the best solution for Madagascar going forward Schwitzer believes. This would involve engagement with local communities, eco-tourism and long term-field research.Madagascar’s Maromizaha Forest is a model for the preservation of the island’s eco-system. Members of the local community have been trained to be guides for tourists eager to see one of the 13 species of lemur that make the forest home.Researchers have gone into local schools to teach children about the unique environment around them. And they have brought new, less destructive, methods of agriculture to local farmers. In the four years to 2011, the number of visitors to the Maromizaha Forest went from 200 to close to 3 000.The increase in visitors brings with it risks. Schwitzer says: “There’s always a trade-off between the destruction caused by too many tourists and the money they bring to the country that can be used for wildlife conservation. This balance for Madagascar is still very positive for conservation and it’s a long way until it may tip over.” Scientist predict 60% of 57 species unique to Madagascar are likely to find suitable habitat reduced by an average of 59.6% over the next 70 years, entirely due to climate change. (Image: Royal Botanic Gardens Kew)Madagascar, the paradise on EarthOne hundred and sixty million years ago, or thereabouts, Madagascar broke off from continental Africa. Over time the island nation has developed a distinct natural eco-system. Today 95% of its reptiles, 89% of its plant life and 92% of its mammal population exist nowhere else. This diversity has ecologists referring to Madagascar as the eighth continent.This unique menagerie includes more than 700 species of reptiles and amphibians. In Madagascar’s threatened rain forests visitors can find neon green geckos and tiny tree frogs that secrete toxins through their skin. Half of the world’s chameleon varieties have evolved on this speck – Madagascar is less than 0.5% of the Earth’s landmass, in the middle of the Indian Ocean.Mark Wright explained in a 2011 report: “It is a very odd island. In terms of its geography, it helps speciation. There’s a mountain ridge down the middle, so on the east of the island you’ve got rainforest, but everything on the west is a rain shadow. So you get an enormous variety of environments from the very wet to the very dry. It’s a fantastic range of environments into which species can adapt.”
Image via ponsulak.Many elements can tank a project, whether it’s funded a not. We see feature films that live in development hell for eternity, and we even see films that are halfway through production or post-production, and then they suddenly stop and never get picked back up again. One of our setbacks was that a primary exterior location was literally demolished and turned into a housing estate (ironically, our set designer now lives in one of those houses). We could reshoot the earlier scenes in a different location, but one of the actors had wrapped and moved not only to a different country but also to a different continent. Things happen that you sometimes can’t control. But, there are a few post-crowdfunding tips you can follow to nail your post-campaign experience and minimize the chance of failure.Get Perks in FirstImage via Pavel L Photo and Video.Perks are the most recognizable elements of crowdfunding — and also the most distressing and confusing. Crowdfunding, when you strip away the glamor, is a charitable donation. It’s neither a financial investment nor a purchase. However, the exchange of money for the promise of a T-shirt or some other reward makes it hard for backers to feel like they’re not buying something.There will be some perks that you can only deliver after you’ve completed the film, such as a DVDs or digital downloads of the film itself. For everything else (T-shirts, posters, stickers, and so on), get them printed or made as soon as you get the campaign money, before you start making the film. When you jump head first into production and then finish a grueling edit, the last thing you want to remember is that you now have to sort the production of the perks.If your film, for whatever reason, fails, your backers are going to be understandably disappointed. Perks can mitigate the severity of this disappointment, in case something goes awry, by proving that you didn’t waste your campaign earnings.Make Sure Everyone Wants Your PerksImage via Charlie Sperring.It’s 2018, but not everyone is adept at using computers and the internet. When you’re crowdfunding, you’re more than likely going to have a family member who’ll be more than happy to pledge. They may pledge an amount that qualifies them for a perk, but they have no intention of collecting it — they just wanted to contribute. (This happens a lot.) Both Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have updated their contribution system to accommodate this, but mistakes can still happen, and this will lead to a surplus of unwanted perks. (To this day, I still have 20+ posters sitting on the top of my wardrobe.) You can send reward surveys and messages from your campaign dashboard — it’s beneficial to do this as soon as possible, as you could save yourself a few extra dollars that could go toward your production costs.Don’t Forget About PostageImage via Sergey Lavrentev.While we weren’t able to complete the web series and deliver DVDs of the final product, we did have everything else finished: T-shirts, posters, badges, stickers, and so on. Not many of the backers wanted the perks without the finished project, which was completely understandable. As a result, we were able to give unwanted perks to other backers, and we donated the T-shirts. A curveball, however, was the postage.When we began our campaign, we factored postage into our overall campaign costs. However, when we sent the perks out to the international backers, the postage cost more than the pledge itself. The major platforms have since implemented a section that helps you account for international postage rates, but online postage charts are flimsy at best. The best option is to take a sample package of perks to the post office before the campaign starts to get an exact quote. Remember, the cost of postage also needs to include packaging materials.Create a Crowdfunding AccountImage via N. Sritawat.There’s no huge write-up for this point. The subtitle is self-evident. Open a new bank account for the crowdfunding cash. You should already have a budget identifying where the funding is going, but if you have a set amount put aside for estimated expenses, such as fuel for travel and food for the cast and crew, it’s going to be helpful to see how much of your budget goes to these estimated expenses. Bookkeeping will get tricky if you buy fuel from the same station for both personal and film use.Many banks now also offer an e-savings account online. Therefore, if you don’t want to go through the rigmarole of opening a brand new account, you can open an e-saver and transfer when needed — while making a note of what the transfer was for.Stick to Your BudgetImage via locrifa.Perhaps the most obvious tip on the list is to limit your purchases to what’s in the budget. In my campaign, we spent an extra $40 on larger containers of fake blood, and an additional $50 on a pack of four atmospheric fog spray cans rather than just buying the two we budgeted for. While we pushed past our initial goal by an extra 20%, which allowed us to make these additional purchases, it still caused an initial headache with our accounting.Stick to a ScheduleImage via gnepphoto.DIY and no-budget filmmaking is hectic, for sure, but if there’s a positive aspect to having no budget, it’s that you also have no deadline. There’s no outside urgency to complete the film; you can make it at whatever pace you like.When you crowdfund a film, however, the dynamic is different. Yes, there’s still no producer counting days and waiting for delivery, but the longer you wait to complete the project, the faster you will lose momentum and excitement. Your team’s interest will wane, and your supporters will wonder what’s taking so long. So you both do and don’t have a deadline. Create a schedule, stick to it, deliver the goods, and then get started on another.Looking for more production tips? We’ve got you covered.Video Tutorial: How to Build a $25 Overhead Camera RigVideo Tutorial: The Secrets Behind Lighting a Shot with FireDIY Filmmaking: How to Build Your Own Dolly for $50What to Include When Submitting Your Film to FestivalsLearning How to Edit While You Shoot You successfully crowdfunded your next film or video project. Congratulations! So what, exactly, are you supposed to do now?Cover image via GoodStudio.Since the turn of the decade, crowdfunding has become a new and exciting way to take your film concept from dream to reality. There are no panels of professional financiers to impress, no constrained funding formats or guidelines to adhere to; it’s just you and the internet. Crowdfunding isn’t a new concept, but platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have certainly streamlined the process.However, for every 50 successful campaigns, there’s one that gets terrible press and shrouds the platform with skepticism. We’ve all heard stories of games that never come out, or composers taking several years longer than anticipated to create a symphony — and often these failures overshadow the success stories. For example, the reason I’m so versed in crowdfunding failures is that in 2012, I raised $19,200 for a web series, which then crashed and burned through two production attempts in 2013 and in 2014. What should have been a four-hour web series, is now a few TBs worth of scrambled media, and a garage filled with moldy props and costumes.There are dozens, if not hundreds, of articles full of advice on how to complete a crowdfunding campaign. Most contain reliable information, and with enough elbow grease, you’ve got a good shot at hitting your goal. However, what they don’t tell you is what to do after. If you’re a professional filmmaker, this article might not be for you. However, if you’ve been making films for a few years and think you’re ready to tackle your first crowdfunding campaign, read on.
The BJP-led coalition government in Manipur completed its first 100 days in office on Sunday. Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said it was because of the trust reposed by people in the new government that it could accomplish its pledges and implement various developmental projects.He said that the indefinite economic blockade imposed by the United Naga Council on Manipur lasting over three-and-a-half months was lifted within two weeks of the formation of the coalition ministry. “The nine bodies in Churachandpur district during the anti-Inner Line Permit agitation were not claimed for more than 600 days. However, once the new government was formed, the bodies were given decent burials,” he added.However, Minister T. Shyamkumar admitted that the plan to clean up Imphal city was not a complete success as “just 10% has been achieved”.Sources said the government was not out of the woods yet as the UNC still maintains that it has not dropped its demand for the rollback of the formation of seven new districts.The Chief Minister has also set up an anti-corruption cell to probe various dubious transactions during the Congress government. One peon was suspended for delaying file movement while another was suspended for extorting money from the patients in JN Institute of Medical Sciences, Imphal. Later two engineers were suspended for their role in the installation of the in-operational traffic signals.InquirySpeaker Y. Khemchand also announced an inquiry into the appointment of over 200 people in the Assembly secretariat before the elections. He said: “The authority was asked to examine the OBC certificate issued to the wife of a Speaker. Besides being the daughter of an elected member, it will be examined whether she was entitled to such a certificate.”