Interview with Simon King

Each day I spend in nature is so rewarding, and it’s my privilege to be able to turn the stories around me into films

"I can't remember a time when I wasn't absolutely fascinated by the world around me! I believe that all children are naturally inquisitive and innately attracted to the living world. I was just lucky that I was able to keep that interest alive once I became an adult and turn my hobby into a job."

Simon King

ZEISS: After so many years spent observing nature, doesn’t your interest start to fade a little? How do you stay so engaged with things you’ve seen so many times before?

Simon King: I quickly learned that the more I see of the world and the animals and plants that inhabit it, the more there is to discover. I’m simply fascinated by the nature of other creatures, their struggles for survival, and all the good and bad things that happen to them. I now understand that I will never even learn enough about the wildlife in my garden, let alone in all the other places I visit worldwide. Each day I spend in nature is so rewarding, and it’s my privilege to be able to turn the stories around me into films.

ZEISS: How far would you go for a good film? What are your limits?

Simon King: My golden rule when filming is that the animals’ needs are more important than mine. No photo or film sequence can justify disturbing an animal or putting it under stress. Apart from that caveat, I would do anything to film something that is worth filming, regardless of how uncomfortable I get! Tough physical conditions, intense effort, and hours of waiting are simply the price you have to pay to see some of nature’s most unique spectacles. But I don’t believe that the viewers should have to bother about that when they’re watching the results. The point of the films is to show the beauty and variety of the world we live in and the wild animals that inhabit it.

ZEISS: When you’re not working, how do you relax in your spare time?

Simon King: I have a broad range of interests including listening to music, playing music, cooking, going to the cinema and theater, and meeting friends. I like doing sightseeing in the city, too, but only for one day, not any longer than that. If I spend too long in the city then I get irritable and I have to escape back to green spaces and open skies. When I have time to myself then I often end up doing the same things that I do in my job, because my work is something I love doing.

ZEISS: What’s the toughest job you’ve done? And the most dangerous?

Simon King: I was once attacked by a wild cheetah that was being chased by a black rhinoceros. I was also nearly flattened by Asian elephants, and I’ve been through some areas of the Antarctic that are tough for human beings to survive in. But most of the problems I’ve had ultimately come back to me, either because I didn’t read the signs right or because I was simply very unlucky! I don’t see our planet as a dangerous place, but rather as a fascinating and varied environment which sometimes takes time to get to know properly. And sometimes you make mistakes along the way.

Some of the films I’ve made required a healthy dose of perseverance and stubbornness. I was once holed up for 14 days in a hide waiting to film a sparrow hawk sweep down and grab a blue tit from a feeder box. I also spent three weeks on an Australian island to film crocodiles that supposedly eat turtles, but none of them ate one! And I have also spent month after month waiting to film things that only end up appearing on the screen for a couple of seconds.

ZEISS: How far would you go for a good film? What are your limits?

Simon King: My golden rule when filming is that the animals’ needs are more important than mine. No photo or film sequence can justify disturbing an animal or putting it under stress. Apart from that caveat, I would do anything to film something that is worth filming, regardless of how uncomfortable I get! Tough physical conditions, intense effort, and hours of waiting are simply the price you have to pay to see some of nature’s most unique spectacles. But I don’t believe that the viewers should have to bother about that when they’re watching the results. The point of the films is to show the beauty and variety of the world we live in and the wild animals that inhabit it.

ZEISS: How do you get groups of teenagers interested in nature?

Simon King: By the time kids become teenagers they already have lots of ingrained attitudes. If you’re dealing with someone who has never had an opportunity to learn about nature and appreciate it, then it can be difficult to help them see what it all means. It’s better to take them outdoors and show them just how rich and varied nature is. You can also get them doing outdoor activities like surfing, climbing, and hiking accompanied by someone who knows how to help them appreciate the natural world. It’s important to have a mentor in this process, because the world can be a confusing place until you get to know it. When you’re more familiar with it then the desire to protect it just becomes second nature.

ZEISS: If you had the funding to launch a nature conservation project, what would you choose?

Simon King: I’ve already started a nature conservation project called the “Simon King Wildlife Project”. Our goals are simple: we aim to buy land which has suffered degradation of its natural state, for example overworked pastureland, cleared forest areas, and urban rubbish tips. Once we get hold of this land we restore it to its natural state by planting trees, sowing wildflowers, and adding ponds. And as wildlife starts to return to the site, we document the changes on our website so that everyone can take part:

www.simonkingwildlife.com

We also build low-impact field study centers to allow children and adults to immerse themselves in the natural environment. The biggest danger for the survival of animals and plants all over the world is the loss of habitat due to human activities. And that’s why our project aims to put nature back on the map.

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