“Rewilding, a new path for nature in Portugal”: behind the scenes

December 17, 2020

The documentary, made by João Cosme and narrated by Célia Gil, premiered in late November, portrays the nature conservation work of an extended partnership, and explains what the rewilding approach can do for nature conservation in Portugal. See how the recordings and premiere went …

João Cosme, during the recordings of the first livestock guarding dog integrated, Leão, in Serra de Montemuro. Credits: Rewilding Portugal

A collaborative teamwork

The adventure of this documentary started between the end of February and the beginning of March this year, even before the Covid-19 pandemic reached Portugal. The Rewilding Portugal team, responsible for the narration and structure of the film, met with João Cosme in Guarda, to outline the narrative of what was intended to be told and everything that needed to be filmed and recorded in the following months. Far from knowing the restrictions imposed on circulation and human coexistence that would affect the national territory, they rolled up their sleeves and went on to the field with the cameras and eager to share what was being done.

The documentary pretends to show the first steps and developments of the projects LIFE WolFlux and Scaling Up Rewilding of the Greater Côa Valley, which are being operationalized in the field for different entities (Rewilding Portugal, Rewilding Europe, ATNatureza, Zoo Logical and Universidade of Aveiro), as well as disseminating the rewilding approach throughout the national territory, which sets up a new path for nature in Portugal and a new way of hope and of looking at nature conservation giving it space to heal and recover by itself.

GPS tagging of vultures in Faia Brava Reserve, Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo. Credits: Rewilding Portugal

Many kilometres and stories after

Despite all the restrictions that, however, came between late March and early April, fieldwork continued. After all, there is no better way to be confined than to be isolated in constant contact only with nature, which Covid-19 was unaware of and went unnoticed. That was how João Cosme spent the following months, knowing the entire area of ​​the projects and having the opportunity to see and capture the magnificent landscapes that it hides and presents, as well as the impressive and challenging fauna and flora that all these places have for us to see and contemplate. “The landscapes of the Côa superior region, which I was unaware of, were undoubtedly something surprising for their beauty and their potential in biodiversity”, he said after the experience.

Various seasons, various climatic conditions, several different stages of the year. The documentary ended up going through all of them, going from Aveiro to Malcata mountains, going through the Douro river until reaching the Côa Valley, which he visited and revisited in detail. The Iberian wolf, difficult to register and to obtain images in the context of proximity, was the main actor of this message of hope and perseverance that he embodies, in the way he adapts to new realities and how he deals with new and constant threats without succumbing. “The most complicated, but always exciting, was the work done with the Iberian wolf, probably one of the most difficult animals to observe in Portugal. Consecutive days without seeing an animal … But sometimes the adrenaline was at its maximum, when I had the opportunity to be less than ten meters from two specimens, undoubtedly something indescribable”. This is how João Cosme describes this arduous task that has been to obtain good images of the Iberian wolf in the last months.

But there is an incredible set of species that were recorded in the lens of João Cosme and recorded now in the memory of all those who have had the opportunity to watch the final result: birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, insects … None of them were left out!

Flora monitoring, together with Terra Prima, in Vale Carapito, Sabugal. Credits: Rewilding Portugal

There were also many actions by the various partners that were recorded for the movie, as well as the fundamental interviews that explain the role of each one in this great journey that is just beginning. João Cosme and Fernando Teixeira, communication officer at Rewilding Portugal, recorded more than a dozen different actions of the projects and carried out seven interviews, which proved to be a key point to get a more personalized and authentic message to the outside public.

One of the most comical moments of the recording period will always remain for future memory, while the Zoo Logical canine detection team was accompanied. The dog Alice, responsible for identifying scats that help the monitoring of the Iberian wolf in the project area, had to show all her abilities during the recordings. For this reason, the team hid a scat in a strategic location so that it could search until it was found, everything being recorded on camera. The truth is, it was so well hidden that even the team itself couldn’t find it again. However, and to everyone’s surprise, the dog found a different one in another location, having perfectly fitted the recordings and shown the real work happening on the ground in a totally unexpected and realistic way.

At the end of the recording on the field, João Cosme was an accomplished professional and pleasantly surprised by the reality he encountered. “The rural part of the life of the shepherds who deal with the wolves and their stories, was something that fascinated me. Besides, it was good to see that fortunately there are people with sensitivity and that this process also depends a lot on these conservation projects and a good understanding. between both parties”, he commented.

João Cosme, during the recordings with the canine detection team of Zoo Logical. Credits: Rewilding Portugal
Rewilding Portugal

The demanding production and editing work

After the recordings, the most decisive and last moment before the film’s premiere appeared: its production and concretization. João Cosme exchanged the field for his computer, Rewilding Portugal team exchanged the accompaniment of the recordings for a detailed review of the story, until the moment of recording the narration.

The choice for the narration was Célia Gil, Portuguese professor and coordinator of the library of Fundão’s Schools, that in his first experience in this type of functions proved to be a good bet and the ideal voice to take the rewilding message to all corners of Portugal and the world. What could have been a long mission and into the night, ended up being done in a few hours and without many attempts, except for a paragraph that seemed destined to be repeated forever, but even there, the narration and the film ended up being revealed as a perfect custom-made wedding.

“The documentary itself, its quality, and the magnificent text, were a great motivation to have accepted this invitation. In addition, giving voice to projects we believe in makes everything easier and it was exciting to see the final result on the screen”, says Célia Gil about this new experience.

João Cosme, during the recordings in the genetic lab of University of Aveiro. Credits: Rewilding Portugal

A successful premiere on two fronts

Then came the time to publicly unveil the nine-month job that was both demanding and pleasurable. The place chosen for the long-awaited premiere was Culturgest’s Small Auditorium, in Lisbon, on the night of November 27th. With the necessary precautions and following all the rules of the public health security, there was a full room (more than sixty people) and the event also had a simultaneous and complete transmission on the various social networks of Rewilding Portugal and its official media partners. The transmission was provided by Bitmood, with more than three cameras recording each moment of the event, and had more than four thousand views at the very moment of the premiere, a bet that proved to be an important step for the dissemination of the rewilding message in Portugal and the work developed by this extended partnership.

The event counted with two opening speeches, of Paula Sarmento (board of Rewilding Portugal) and Pedro Prata (team leader of Rewilding Portugal), before the screening of the movie. Also, to notice the presence of Humberto Delgado Rosa, director for Natural Capital D-G Environment, of the European Commission.

At the end, there was also a round table with the theme “Policies for the promotion of biodiversity and rewilding as agents for the development of the country and the interior”, moderated by Linda Formiga (editor of the Cultura e Arte Community, media partner of the event and projects) and who had as speakers Pedro Prata (Team Leader at Rewilding Portugal), Carlos Fonseca (Biologist / Team Leader at the University of Aveiro), Nuno Fazenda (Deputy and University Professor, currently coordinator of the Socialist Party Parliamentary Group at the Commission of Environment, Energy and Planning) and Ana Rainho (Project Manager of APTERN).

Linda Formiga (moderator) e Nuno Fazenda (speaker) during the round table in the premiere event. Credits: Rewilding Portugal


After the event, the movie was already available to be seen online and for free, here.


About our projects

The LIFE WolFlux’s project is financed by the LIFE program of the European Commission and co-financed by the Endangered Landscapes Programme, while the Scaling Up Rewilding of the Greater Côa Valley project is also funded by the Endangered Landscapes Program, which is managed by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and funded by Arcadia, a charity fund by Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing.

Rewilding Portugal counts on both projects with its partners: Rewilding Europe, ATNatureza, University of Aveiro and Zoo Logical.





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