Five minutes with ... Giles Clark

Five minutes with ... Giles Clark
Giles Clark takes on the illegal wildlife trade. 

Conservationist Giles Clark takes on the illegal wildlife trade, as well as the task of building a bear sanctuary in Laos, South-east Asia, in BBC Two series Bears About The House.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE SERIES?

We really try and aim for a perfect mixture of engaging the audience with some incredibly charismatic little characters - in this case Mary the bear - but we also want to tell what the most important message is, which is about the bear trade and the illegal wildlife trade.

If you go too hard I think you sort of end up preaching to the choir people, because people who are ardently interested will watch it but others either switch off or turn over because the harsh reality is it's unpleasant and it's confronting.

So if you feel that we tackled it in a way that you can take a breath of fresh air and we still introduce those topics and talk about them - and there's a sense of hope at the end, that's fantastic.

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN MAKING THIS? IS IT SOMETHING YOU WERE LOOKING TO WORK ON FOR A WHILE?

It's strange how life works. Matt Hunt, the CEO of Free The Bears, who is in the programme, I met him when I lived in Australia in 2004 and we started a friendship and have grown stronger ever since. And probably up until 2018 when I took the position, every year for the last six to eight years he must have sent me a job description or a position opening, trying to encourage me to work with or do something for Free The Bears.

I was just never in the position in life where it was manageable or achievable until last year - and then I was incredibly lucky, incredibly fortunate in my sort of personal position, that I could effectively take 12 months out and not get paid very much at all, and go and work for Free The Bears and Matt.

HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP THE EXPERIENCE?

It was one of the most incredible, uplifting, and yet challenging periods in my life. Living there across 12 months definitely had its ups and downs to say the least.

YOU TALK A LOT ABOUT THE BEARS AS INDIVIDUALS...

When we talk about conservation, and when we talk about the wildlife trade, and when we talk about bears as a species, it is ultimately about them as a species... but for me it's also about them as an individual.

Because Mary the sun bear, when we confiscated her from the trafficker, or David and Jane, or any of the bears, they don't know that their species is now starting to become endangered in the wild and if this continues in another five years' time it could be past the tipping point.

What they know of is what they feel as individuals, which is they feel fear and they feel stress and they're hungry because quite often most of the bears that we come across are never fed properly. It comes down to balance. I want to help that animal as an individual, but I also want to be able to help the bigger picture when it comes to species conservation.

Bears About The House starts on July 15 at 8pm on BBC Two.

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