Extinction, revival and then some

Under a Desert Sun, a documentary created by Dubai Media City-based Ocean World Productions will be screened in the Destination Documentary segment of Diff. Culled from some 100 hours of footage, the one-hour documentary gives an overview of how wildlife can adapt to life under harsh conditions

The Arabian oryx, did you know, does not drink water? It gets all the water it needs from desert vegetation.
The Arabian oryx, did you know, was on the verge of extinction and through captive breeding was brought back to nature?
Today, despite the huge effort that went into saving the animal from extinction, the oryx is one again becoming endangered as poachers disrupt the animal population for private collection.
These and other harsh realities faced by the wild animals in Arabia form the content of Under a Desert Sun, a documentary produced by Dubai Media City-based Ocean World Productions to be screened at Dubai International Film Festival 2005.
“We are showing how certain species are able to survive and adapt to the harsh desert conditions,” explains Jonathan Ali Khan, chief executive officer, Ocean World Productions, who led a team of six through the deserts of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Oman to shoot the documentary. They had over 100 hours of footage from which was culled the one hour documentary. Jonathan feels he would have made it into three hours and still there would have been much more to share. The documentary raises the question of whether Arabia’s conservation measures are doing enough.
Under a Desert Sun is part of a continuum of wildlife documentation that Jonathan has been undertaking for a few years now. Apart from three films on National Geographic channel and television programmes for BBC World, Star TV, Star Sports and Channel 33, he has to his credit the region’s first natural history TV series, Arabia – Cycle of Life, a project sponsored by Jeep. “It was a 12-part series on the mountains, wadis and deserts and the coastal and marine environment,” says Jonathan. They were televised on Al Arabiya and Showtime, and now have been picked by Animal Planet.
Cycle of Life is perhaps the first conscious effort to document the natural and wildlife history of Arabia. Jonathan had been working over the years to create an awareness of the natural environment. In his 19 years in the Gulf, he has seen many changes and was also surprised to see a lot of work going on vis-à-vis environmental awareness. But he realized that much of it was undocumented.
He sees a lot more open approach to environmental concerns here, of late, as against in the earlier days, when decision makers had to pass through the environment versus development dilemma. “The kind of work we do today was not perhaps possible five years ago,” he adds.
The first series of Cycle of Life dealt with the natural history of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait and the UAE. For the second series, Jonathan is moving to the west of Abu Dhabi and then to Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, to be followed by another expedition across Yemen.

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