Majestic: Laure shooting elephants in Thailand.
By Hồng Vân
In these days when selfies are de rigueur, cameras and video gears have become normal travelling companions.
For French couple Pascal Schram and Anne Laure, this equipment has an added purpose beyond photographs of destinations to serve as later personal memoirs.
Their aim is to use their travel and their cameras to film animal protection centres and raise awareness of animal welfare.
“Animals are intelligent and have feelings just like humans. The more we learn about animals, the more we become sensitive to how humans treat them,” said Schram.
“We care about the link between nature and humankind on a daily basis. Both of us are passionate about and fascinated by animals in general and are aware of being live witnesses to the 6th wave of animal extinction,” Laure said. "Many scientists believe that the sixth mass extinction in earth’s history is underway.
“It affects us a lot, and we want to do our part by making a positive contribution in our own way to the species that suffer. We are therefore very sensitive to the animal conditions in general.
“We have longed to make a big trip around the world for a long time, but we also wanted it to be meaningful. So we took time to think about it and we eventually came out with the Animal360 project which is a way for us to travel and give back at the same time,” Laure added.
Up close: Schram filming the health check of a strong bear named Humphrey in Animals Asia, Việt Nam. — Photos courtesy of Pascal Schram
The couple, natives of Rennes, west of France, said they have shared a special love for animals since their childhood and this has increased their awareness of the issue of animal protection over the last ten years.
They had other jobs, but they felt more drawn to the cause of animal protection.
World trip planning
Starting in 2015, the couple incorporated the animal filming project into their itineraries during trips to Belgium, Cape Verde, Thailand and within France.
“The previous two years of travelling and filming during our holiday was a rehearsal for our two-year world tour. We learnt about filming and read a lot about animal protection and welfare,” said Laure.
The couple decided to buy an old house, renovate and re-sell it to fund their world trip, quit their jobs and began their world tour in September.
“The primary goal is to help animal protection associations to promote their actions, that is why we give them the videos we make for free so that they can use it on social medias and websites. Then we also put the reports on our website animal360.fr so that people can see all the reports in one place,” said Schram.
Schram and Laure also go to schools and nursing homes for the elderly to talk about animal protection, showing their work to ‘inspire and sensitise children and the elderly about animal welfare.
“We think that it’s essential to talk to children because they are our future,” said Schram.
The couple plans to travel to more than ten countries in around two years – Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Việt Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Finland, New Zealand, Australia and some South American countries.
“We research the countries and their animal protection issues in advance and then choose the associations that we think could use our help. Most of the time they are not the biggest ones that already have a budget for communication,” said Schram.
“We have already made 8 videos featuring different associations in different countries and we want to keep that pace,” Schram added.
The couple visited a shelter for hundreds of dogs and cats in Belgium, another one for strays and domestic dogs and cats in Cape Verde, a free care home for cats in Thailand, an elephant care centre in Thailand, a shelter for disabled dogs and a leopard research centre in Sri Lanka.
Best friends: The couple visited a shelter for dogs in Sri Lanka.
‘Impressive’ bears in Việt Nam
In late November, the couple visited the Tam Đảo National Park to feature a bear rescue centre.
“We chose Animals Asia, where bears are rescued from bile farms, which is not very well known in Europe, so that we can show and share information about it,” said Schram.
For Europeans, it would be really interesting to see bears protected, said Schram.
“The bear rescue centre in Việt Nam was even more amazing than what we expected. We learnt a lot about moon bears and sun bears, they are incredibly resilient. Even though they’ve had the worst experience with humans, being cruelly treated in bile farms, they are now trusting the people here,” he said.
“It is really moving to see them playing with each other and enjoying life despite their difficult stories,” said Laure.
Schram and Laure had the opportunity to see a health examination done on a strong bear named Humphrey. “It was very impressive to see him so close, and very moving to see that the staff were so gentle with him,” said Laure.
Said Schram: “If not here, we may never have seen moon bears [Asian black bear] and sun bears [Helarctos malayanus] , and they are absolutely fun to watch. It would be a shame not to protect them. Bile farming will end when people stop buying the bile, or when bears become totally extinct. We can choose the world we want to live in with our consumption choices.
“The most rewarding moment is when I see that people at the associations and centres love their job and our work. I feel proud when our work helps with their communication work.
“By showing the positive side, we also want to talk about the negative side. We want to show that you can do something, everyone can do something. It can be a little thing, but when we put many little things, it can be a big thing.
“Every report we make is different. The only thing that remains the same is that the people we met in the associations we have been to are always extraordinary, passionate, good persons.” — VNS