Discovery and World Wildlife Fund US (WWF-US) will partner on a matching donation campaign to help preserve Bikin National Park in Russia, the partners said at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday. The announcement comes as Discovery is in Park City, Utah for the premiere of the company’s new documentary “Tigerland,” a look at the threats that tigers face from human encroachment on their natural habitat. Bikin National Park boasts 10% of all Amur tigers in the wild. The preserved area is featured prominently in “Tigerland,” which tracks activists, scientists, and everyday people around the world who are working to save these big cats.
“I was trying to figure out how we could make a film that was different than activist-oriented films about poaching and the decimation of different species,” said Ross Kauffman, the film’s director. “Many of those movies are great, but I wanted to focus more on the beauty and majesty of the tigers.”
This is the second fundraising phase of Project C.A.T, a campaign launched in 2016 in which the two organizations pledged to preserve nearly 1 million acres of land in India and Bhutan. The campaign quickly funded an additional 1 million acres of preserved land.
Project C.A.T. is now turning its attention to Bikin National Park, where it will work to preserve tiger populations in a 3.7-million-acre site in the park. This triples Discovery’s initial commitment. The company is committed to fully funding the site through 2022 and will work with WWF to fundraise for the project. Discovery will match donations received through this campaign up to $250,000 through December 31, 2019.
“With the globe in our logo, protecting the planet is part of our DNA at Discovery, and it is our responsibility and great privilege to help preserve the magnificent creatures who call it home,” said Discovery CEO David Zaslav in a statement. “Spreading the word is not enough; we have to act. Through Project C.A.T., and with our partners at WWF, we have already made progress in our goal to double the world’s wild tiger population by 2022. We are proud to expand our commitment to protect one of the world’s most iconic and endangered creatures. Not on our watch will we let these majestic animals fade away.”
For “Tigerland,” Kauffman (the Oscar-winning director of “Born into Brothels,”) worked with producer Fisher Stevens (another Oscar-winner for “The Cove”) to track preservation efforts in both Russia and India, using a verite style to capture environmental advocates at work. He also recorded stirring footage of the tigers in their element.
Kauffman doesn’t just document these conservation attempts. He looks at man’s relationship with these animals, discussing the fascination that people had with tigers, dating back to cave paintings and early myths. It’s a connection that endures.
“One day I was thinking of doing this film, and I looked down and my 6-year old Harry was cutting out paper tigers and showing me how beautiful they were and talking about how much he loves them,” said Kauffman. “There’s something so captivating about watching a tiger walking through the forest. It’s an apex predator. It just kind of takes your breath away.”
The film will debut on Discovery on March 30, in the U.S. and in countries and territories around the world. Discovery and WWF hope “Tigerland” will highlight the grave threats that tiger populations face.
“In the last century, tiger populations have declined by an estimated 95 percent, but thanks to the leadership of key governments and the many men and women who have dedicated their lives to conversation, there are places in Asia where wild tiger numbers are beginning to rebound,” said Ginette Hemley, Senior Vice President for Wildlife at WWF-US. “The next decade is critical for this iconic species. With Discovery’s support, we are able to expand our efforts to protect wild tigers in important locations like Bikin National Park.”