To mark World Wildlife Day on Thursday, March 4, Potoroo Palace released a short film about flying foxes to spread the world about this incredible, but threatened keystone species.
Behind the short film was French filmmaker Michele Thiemann, who turned away from creating digital content for Parisian high fashion to find her passion project at the native wildlife sanctuary near Merimbula on the Far South Coast.
She decided to ditch her career in Paris due to what she sad was her overwhelming sense of hopelessness around the climate crisis, growing ecological issues, and high extinction rate of native animals.
"I realised that what I was doing in my job was not helping at all, so I decided to leave everything and move to Australia and I didn't have big ideas except that I wanted to help and do video about great ecological projects," she said.
The first video she made was on a 50 acre farm in Milton called Ryebrook Farm. The video focused on regenerative farming and the farm's native tree planting project to help extend the biodiversity of the land.
She was camping at Mystery Bay on the South Coast at the time of the Black Summer bushfires in 2019/20 and felt a strong need to document the fires. She created two videos to showcase her personal experience and how climate change was affecting people.
Eventually she went to Melbourne to escape the fires, but after a period of time she decided to come back and started volunteering at Potoroo Palace. After four months of volunteering, Ms Thiemann became a staff member.
"There I discovered all the wildlife and the animals and I spent all my time during the last years with them, learning so many different things.
"I also work with WIRES and am beginning to learn a lot about wildlife and that's why I've been beginning to share a bit more about the beautiful animals that we have in the area and actually feeling like I can help," she said.
World Wildlife Day seemed the perfect opportunity to create a film that she had been wanting to create for some time about flying foxes, "a key species for forest restoration".
She chose to document flying foxes by filming the sanctuary's founder Alexandra Seddon talking about the species and how misconceptions about the animals have been damaging to the species as a whole.
"I interviewed Alexandra as she really inspires me a lot and in the video she gives another point of view about the flying fox, because she's cared for them for many many years.
"All the flying foxes we have at Potoroo Palace are here for a good reason and the video explains that," she said.
In a follow-up to the video, Ms Thiemann also filmed one at Panboola Wetlands in Pambula about the flying fox population that was inhabiting that area while feasting on native blossom.
She created the video in her native language, with English subtitles, to share the information to as many people as possible.
"I like to try and educate with what I know, there are so many travellers who just come through and don't really notice all these things and sometimes just focus on a species like kangaroos or koalas," she said.
The next film she has been planning to make was for the International Day of Forests on March 21, about native forests to explore how her "vision of native trees and forests has changed since coming to Australia".
Following that she intends to move on to a film about koalas and about why they are disappearing and what steps people can take to help their dwindling populations, as well as a video about the differences between WIRES and the animal sanctuary's practices on animal rehabilitation.
She has also been busy creating videos for Potoroo Palace's YouTube channel about the various native animals she cares for at the sanctuary.
Ms Thiemann has also been looking at online study options in conservation and wildlife management but wanted to be able to continue her work at the sanctuary, "for as long as they'd have me."
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