Red Deer filmmaker Rueben Tschetter gets his camera gear ready (contributed photo).

Red Deer filmmaker goes on African safari with Wild TV

Rueben Tschetter’s excellent adventure as camera operator

Flying in a wind-rocked helicopter above the South African savanna, Red Deer filmmaker Rueben Tschetter strained to capture a white rhino on video — without falling out of the chopper.

When he was hired as a camera operator for two safari episodes for the Wild TV show The Edge, Tschetter knew he would be in for an adventure.

He just didn’t realize how hair-raising and exhausting it would be.

Much of what Tschetter experienced in Africa from May 9-20 fell outside his comfort zone — from flying in a door-less helicopter that took-off before his seat belt was buckled — to walking 25 km in a day with hunters tracking wildebeests in a game farm near the Botswana border.

“It was crazy… it was my first time in South Africa, my first time in a helicopter, my first time shooting a rhino (on film)…”

At times, Tschetter said he had to remind himself “where I was and what I was doing” because the whole thing seemed like a surreal “blur” — especially with the time difference messing up his internal clock.

Generally, Tschetter, producer of The Cache Project, makes local short films about Central Alberta. It made for an exotic change when he was asked to be a camera operator for Wild TV, which makes hunting shows.

One episode was about two North American hunters who’d paid $21,000 towards rhinoceros conservation, to be able to track and then shoot — with a tranquilizer dart — a white rhino.

The female had to be studied for health reasons, said Tschetter. She wasn’t getting pregnant so a veterinarian wanted to take blood and hair samples. Operators of the game preserve also needed to install a micro chip in her horn that could be traced if poachers attempted to steal it.

“Rhino horns are literally worth more than their weight in gold,” Tschetter explained. That’s why the endangered animals are being decimated. Illegal poachers sell rhino horns to Asian countries, where they are in high demand for supposedly curing everything from cancer to impotence — claims disproven by science.

To shoot this episode, Tschetter travelled six hours north of Johannesburg to a wildlife preserve.

He recalled the shocking amount of security rigged to keep poachers out: “There were three electric fences, each 16 feet high and 1,200 volts.” Inside these fences was a pen of free-roaming lions, and beyond this, armed guards patrolled the preserve.

The rhino ‘hunt’ was over in a day. For Tschetter the scariest moment was when the wind rocked his helicopter so wildly, the pilot attempted a landing, but thought better of it and just kept on flying.

Tschetter’s impression of the rhinos was not of ferocious beasts, but fairly docile herd animals. “They kind of reminded me of cows in a pasture.”

The second episode, at a game ranch near the Botswana border, involved five American hunters seeking trophy kills. They stalked antelope, spiral-horned koodoo (like an African elk), and wildebeests.

It was an exhausting week, and Tschetter admitted to feeling some personal qualms about the animal killings. But the meat was donated to local villages.

The laxity of South African laws struck him when the pickup truck he was in sped past a police cruiser at 120 km p/hr. No one inside was wearing seat belts, and a guide and an antelope carcass were travelling in the truck bed. And the vehicle wasn’t pulled over.

“It’s real cowboy” over there, he said, with a chuckle.

Although Tschetter remains troubled by the deep rift between blacks and whites in South Africa, he considers the trip an incredible experience.

Would he go back? “Absolutely! I hated the plane trips, but I love the adventure.”



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Red Deer College Queens host third annual Pink in the Rink game

The RDC Queens picked up an extra special victory on home ice… Continue reading

PHOTOS: The Mustard Seed CEO speaks at Seeds of Hope Gala in Red Deer

The first-ever Seeds of Hope Gala was held at the Red Deer… Continue reading

PHOTO: Renewable Energy Fair at Red Deer College

The Renewable Energy Fair and Workshops event was held at Red Deer… Continue reading

Person airlifted to hospital after collision near Innisfail

One person was airlifted to hospital after a serious collision west of… Continue reading

WATCH: Make-A-Wish grants Star Wars loving teen’s wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Anakin Suerink’s wish in Red Deer Saturday afternoon

‘Stupid’ law preventing Canada’s re-engagement with Iran: retired envoy

OTTAWA — The real reason the Liberal government hasn’t been able to… Continue reading

Voters head to polls for BC municipal elections today

VANCOUVER — Voters in British Columbia will head to the polls today… Continue reading

All sharks tagged in N.S. expedition can now be tracked on Ocearch website

HALIFAX — All six of the sharks tagged in Nova Scotian waters… Continue reading

Memorial service for former PQ minister Lise Payette today in Montreal

MONTREAL — Mourners will gather to remember former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister… Continue reading

Immunotherapy scores a first win against some breast cancers

For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown… Continue reading

‘Mom I’m in trouble:’ Canadian, Brit face 10 years in jail for alleged graffiti

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — The mother of a Canadian who was arrested… Continue reading

Coyote on the prowl near Penhold

This coyote was out on the prowl in a field just west… Continue reading

Most Read