Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dinner with an amazing team and plans for the future

On one of my last nights in Bhaglapur, I invited the research team to have dinner with me. It was a chance to thank them for their incredible hospitality and for their openness and willingness to share their story with me and with you. These people and all the people I got the chance to meet and interview on this journey to me are hero’s. Without them…there simply would not be hope for the continued existence of this species. I feel honored and incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to meet all of them.
Dinner with research team in Bhaglapur, India (Photo: JLewis, TDRF)
I cannot wait to share the whole story with you now that the shooting is complete. We promise to keep you all posted as it is produced. 

As an organization, in addition to the film we are continuing other lines of work to help do what we can to help preserve this species. We are now working with Dr. Choudhary to organize a conference where all of the researchers in the film (plus many more that we did not follow) can get together and more effectively strategize as a large team to do all that can be done towards preservation of the Ganges river dolphin. We also continue to provide advice and guidance to the students in Nepal (and have offered to do the same for everyone else in the film, and others that we met along the way). And finally, we are now planning to go back later this year to make a second film, focusing more heavily on the complex issue in Bihar, between the dolphins, the fishermen and the men that control the fishermen.  We plan to have a trailer to use to help raise funds for this next trip completed this spring and will also share that with you.

To keep up with our work you can follow us at multiple locations. We post regularly via twitter (https://twitter.com/TropicalDolph), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TropicalDolphinResearchFoundation) and our website (www.tropicaldolphin.org). 

You can also help support our work in many ways 1) you can share information about the film through social media, 2) you can volunteer to work with our organization (just contact me, Jennifer Lewis at jlewis@tropicaldolphin.org) and 3) you can support us financially through donation (we have a secure paypal link on the top of all of our web pages: https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_flow&SESSION=FCzR1tPTzR0zytyOE0xSg2nHIl9FZNUNa2-JsAf5dG4VeEU5CNUIPtilu3m&dispatch=5885d80a13c0db1f8e263663d3faee8d7ff5e1e81f2ed97dd1e90bd72966c40c ).

I leave you with a final shot of the Ganges river and the young fishermen as we come back at sunset after interviews. I hope that through this introductory glimpse of the story we are trying to tell, we have inspired you to want to learn more about this species and the people who work tirelessly to prevent it from extinction. And that you will support our efforts to tell this story.
Young fishermen move back towards the shore of the Ganges river, Bihar, India (Photo: JLewis, TDRF)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Everyone can play a role (Part 2)

On the day we took our trip down the river, we end at a village called Kahalgaon. This is a small fishing village. Small in size, but not in strength. For a long time, the fishermen of this region were controlled by an antiquated system of domination by landlords. The people of this village fought through peaceful demonstration and protest. And after 10 long years, they won their battle and the country of India declared that this system was unlawful. Sadly the relief was short lived, and instead of landlords, other criminal elements moved in. Murdering seven of these fishermen to demonstrate the new system. These villagers still work to do all they can to fight this new situation, but as of today, are still under the “mafia” control.

So how does this affect the dolphin? Why am I bringing this up? The elements that control the fishermen, create added pressure to 1) collect more fish than may be needed for their families to survive, because these other individuals get a percentage of the catch or money from the catch and 2) these other individuals promote poor fishing practices, such as the use of the tiny mesh size blue nets that remove everything in their path. So if more fish are being removed, there is less food for the dolphins.

The problem of decimating the fish stocks has not gone unnoticed by the fishermen. And this is why they continue to fight. Fight for basic human rights and fight to maintain the river and the species that can still be found living in it. These people have remarkable courage. And continue to do all they can to raise their voices to all who will listen. It is another example to me, of the power that everyone has in this story of conservation.

I can tell you that we listened, and that we will make certain that their story and the story of the effects of this system on the dolphins in this area is heard by as many people as we can tell.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Everyone can play a role (Part 1)

There were two groups of people that I had the opportunity and privilege to meet while in Bhaglapur. Each left an incredible impression on me, and I hope they will do the same to you when the film is complete and you also get the chance to meet them. I will talk about one today and save the other for tomorrow.

Today Dr. Choudhary took me to meet a group of volunteers from an NGO called Paridhi, he worked with previously. These people developed a musical that they perform to demonstrate the importance of the river and the dolphin. They did this freely and voluntarily. And the result was absolutely amazing and beautiful. They do work like this for environmental and social causes.

We get to talk and interview them, and then film them performing one of the songs from their play about the dolphin.  They remind me that conservation can come from many different sources. It is not up to just researchers or scientists. Everyone can play a very important role.

Members of the non-profit Paridhi in Bhaglapur sing a song about preserving the Ganges river dolphin (Photo: Jlewis, TDRF)