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50/50 filming event


Ernest Seamark (left) being interviewed by Albertus Low (presenter) and filmed by Igor Potgieter, with the Mamelodi II sinkhole, above the cave entrance.
Ernest Seamark (left) being interviewed by Albertus Low (presenter) and filmed by Igor Potgieter, with the Mamelodi II sinkhole, above the cave entrance.

During South Africa, COVID pandemic I was contacted by Sonette Ellis (50/50 Assistant Content Producer) to assist in identification of some bat footage sent in from viewers for a segment known as ‘Veldfocus’.


This also put me back in contact with Lindsay Patterson (50/50 Researcher), who had undertaken the AfricanBats NPC introduction course to bats in April 2015. In simple catching up some ideas of a possible segment on bats was suggested... not knowing how fast things can occur once there is support for an idea. Albertus Low (presenter and producer) and Igor Potgieter (cameraman) joined us for our normal field work on the 8th September 2020 to obtain stock footage, and then the following evening was set aside to work with Albertus and Igor to obtain more focused footage where those retakes can be undertaken, or camera angles changed. Which if this were undertaken during normal fieldwork would be very disruptive and intrusive to the bats and research team. This was my first experience working with a filming team, where Albertus and Igor were very professional and understood our concern working with wild animals. The first evening while normal field work took place, we barely knew that they were present. But the second day was lots of fun. Where all the suiting up and trying to keep microphones placed within disposable coveralls...then I squat down and the suit rips... Well, what is ducktap for? Then taking conservation concerns into account the footage of us in the cave with lots of talking, was shot while the bats were out feeding... so no one was actually home.

Ernest Seamark holding a Long-fingered Bat, who is echolocating into the Anabat Walkabout bat detector held by Albertus Low (presenter) while filmed by Igor Potgieter
Ernest Seamark holding a Long-fingered Bat, who is echolocating into the Anabat Walkabout bat detector held by Albertus Low (presenter) while filmed by Igor Potgieter

Hence lots of staging and retaking of us walking in the cave from back, front, this angle and that. If this was undertaken during the day would have been extremely disruptive to the bats. But at night no direct impact. The footage of the bats close up was obtained the night before – where we try to reduce the amount of time spent in the cave with the bats present in the late afternoon, capturing what we think we can process depending on the team size for that specific day. Thanks to the field team who aided in this event Dr. Teresa Kearney, Dr Mark Keith, Mr. Steven Tucker, Mrs. Margaret Bartkowiak, Miss Lindelani Makuya (intern 2016/17) and Miss Mengjing Wei (intern 18/19, and current MSc student). Also, to Gordon and Cindy Hooper (landowners) who encouraged and supported our work and the documenting of our work by the 50/50 film team. Little did I know that Albertus wearing two hats, was presenting in Afrikaans, but at least there were English subtitles.


See below the gallery to watch the episode via YouTube.

The footage was aired on SABC 2 on the 22 October 2020. You can watch the episode (Bats S10:EP21) below:


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