In Search of the Yamapikarya
Does a Mystery Big Cat Prowl the Dense Jungles of Iriomote Island?
Why do people climb mountains, swim channels, row, Oceans or head to the stars? Predominantly the excuse given is either "Because it's their" or "To see whats there". Man has this incessant drive to find out more about what, where and how other entities survive on this spinning rock we live on. A need to see just how other environments thrive, or perish. To understand more about the puzzle that is known commonly as 'Mother Nature'. And it's at those moments just when we think we know all there is to know about a subject that more fuel gets added to the proverbial fire, as is the case with the Yamapikarya.
Known to be the home of what is commonly called the 'Yamaneko' in the regional dialect the island of Iriomote has long been understood to host a supremely rare and critically endangered Wild Mountain Cat within its dense green expanses of sub-tropical jungles. Over the course of the last forty or so years though something else, something potentially more intriguing has been slowly showing its face. The 'Yamapikarya' is the name attributed to a feline species encountered and documented by no less that 47 verified and trusted individuals. From Wild Boar hunters to learned Scientists a series of encounters spanning the last three decades has piqued my interest.
Armed with high resolution cameras and a compact 4K format video filming solution my goal is to head deep into an uncharted region of the island for a one month immersion into the truly wild heart of Iriomote. My Goal? To lay up in wait with the ultimate goal of realising concrete imaging evidence as to the existence of this mystery cat. This will allow me to answer the question as to what the 'Yamapikarya' could be and whether or not it is actually new to science.
From a logistical standpoint from my current abode on the main island of Okinawa I can be at the target location stepping into the forests of Iriomote within three to four hours travel. Not only do I live right on the doorstep of this unique location but to travel there is not particularly taxing from a financial standpoint. This means that subsequent observation phases, should they be required, are always a potential. It remains as my personal goal to dedicate any available time I may have, as long as that may take, to discovering just what the 'Yamapikarya' could be.
Video and Editorial Project Goals
What Am I Hoping To Accomplish?
My goals for this project are first and foremost to capture imagery to identify exactly what the Yamapikarya may be. I have my suspicions but they are just that, hunches. I have formulated my idea of What, Where and How which all require confirmation. That can only come from imagery. My goals for this initial phase are twofold, initially to create a 'reality' style short video that goes to underline just what this kind of undertaking entails and secondly, to capture still imagery to accompany an editorial of my experience and success, or failure, in this initial phase. Should I be successful in my quest there will be an additional filming segment take place at a later date with additional crew so as to build the 'B' Roll in order to create the intended for broadcast 28min duration video.
Based on the descriptions of the animal in the eyewitness accounts being as consistent as it is indicates one particularly likely species. It is one that prefers a specific environment of which the region of my planned insertion is made up predominantly with, mangroves, shallow rivers lined with dense vegetation.
Road signs on the few roads that exist on the island warn drivers about their speed. With an estimated wild population hovering around 100 individuals it's a know fact that the 'Yamaneko' Wild Mountain Cat is perilously close to extinction. But what of the 'Yamapikarya'? Are they still present on the island?
Iriomote is an island crisscrossed with an intricate network of waterways and impressive waterfalls. Having already visited the island on four previous occasions I have seen first hand just how dense the foliage can be. I have trekked into the heart of the island on paths travelled by few, was I at any time being 'observed' by unknown eyes?
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Our Responsive and Engaged Social Following of 230,000+ Forms Our Core Project Audience
Trail Cameras x 4 - 1080P motion triggered with night vision capability
Hide / Shelter - Sized for two people given the amount of equipment I would need to hide from view
Camping Gear - Bivvy Bag, Sleeping Bag, Camouflaged Pattern Shelter, Mosquito netting, Cooker / Stove
Wildlife Viewing Scope x 1
Memory Cards - CF and SD
Backpack x 1 - 60 to 70l capacity
Iridium Network GPS / Messaging Device (similar to InReach from Garmin).
A five hour trek gets you to Maegusuku Falls in the heart of Iriomote. Before arriving at this spectacular waterfall you must traverse mountainous pathways, forge across water hazards and take a forty minute boat ride along some of the most pristine mangrove systems the island has to offer. And this is not considered the true wilderness of the island. What will be home for my insertion phase of this project could very well be the first human presence in that region, and I have four locations picked that offer the optimum environment for the species of Cat that I believe the Yamapikarya to be.
At the outset I wish to reiterate that I am not seeking financial input from product sponsors. A large part of the items sought relate to my overall comfort in the field during this initial observation phase. Having been in both situations at times during my work to date I can unequivocally state that it is one hundred times better to work in adverse conditions with the right gear than to be miserable and unmotivated with substandard equipment. It is for this that I seek the loaned use of a range of hardware that would allow this insertion phase to be as positively bearable as possible.
In return I offer to promote at every possible time the involvement of any sponsors to my social media audience. I started out with social media in 2009 since when I have amassed a totally organic audience in excess of 230,000 across the four main social channels.
Promotions will include but not limit to the following:
- Social Media updates, with imagery of the hardware, relative to the planning of the expedition
- During the observation phase if possible with access through the Iridium network to update from the field
- Included in all subsequent editorials and Blog posts
- Included in final project video production credit reel
- Short video clips created on location that focus on product placement to reinforce brand awareness
Should there be any specific requests from product sponsors I am also willing to entertain discussing promotional aspects beyond those listed above. At all times my comportment and message will focus around transmitting positive environmental ambassadorship and the need to preserve locations such as that in which this project will be realised.
I'm an Emmy Award winning wildlife cameraman and landscape photographer. I've self produced a number of short films for International film festivals that have either won, been favourably placed or awarded specific recognition. I pride myself on my ability to meticulously plan such an expedition. This skill set stems from a 12yr military career, predominantly infantry, with five of those years spent within the ranks of the French Foreign Legion.
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I have a project overview PDF that goes into greater detail with regards to planning and execution of this undertaking. If you are a corporate entity providing hardware in the required fields as listed above and would like to discuss your involvement in greater detail then please feel free to contact me at your discretion.
My first ever trip to the island of Iriomote was done so on a hunch. I'd been after shooting an image for such a long time of a waterfall in an area that allowed me to also include the majesty of the Milky Way in the night skies above the flowing water. After scouring maps and having never seen the location I stepped out into the night for a one hour unguided trek into the dense jungles of Iriomote. As the sound of rushing waters grew ever louder I eventually came upon the Segara Waterfall, and it was perfect. My one year quest to shoot this image had paid off. It all came down to meticulous planning and preparation. Something I pride myself on, why not join me on this adventure, it's going to be a wild ride for sure.
Many Thanks to Our Project Sponsors and Supporters
The results and success of any endeavour are a mere reflection of the effort put into it.
Whilst there could be a certain level of hardship associated with this undertaking it all comes down to the planning and logistics of the project. Any personal burden, mental or physical, rests squarely on just how comfortable I can make myself in the field for the duration. This comfort is greatly increased when I work with industry leading brands who realise, and recognise, the potential implications of being associated with this project. To film or photograph any species for the first time is no easy feat, especially these days when it seems we know all there is to know about nature and our surroundings. To that end I believe the resulting media attention can only go to shine a positive light on any corporate entity looking to align with my efforts on this project. A world's first, for world beaters!