Extreme Conservation The Maldives
Q&A with presenter Michaela Strachan

Please credit the following: “BBC World News and BBC Reel special episode ‘Extreme Conservation, The Maldives’ presenter Michaela Strachan answers questions on the filming of the episode. Viewers will be able to watch the episode on BBC World News on:

Sat 11 June 16:30 SGT, Sun 12 June 04:30 SGT 09:30 SGT 22:30 SGT

You will also be able to view on BBC Reel, the premium video and short documentary destination of the BBC.”




Could you tell us a little bit about the filming of this special?

The special is part of a new strand for BBC World News called Extreme Conservation where we look at what extreme measures countries are putting into place to conserve their wildlife and environments. We start off in the Maldives, a country that is being seriously affected by climate change. The islands are being eroded and the coral reefs, which are the natural barriers, are being seriously affected too. If nothing is done, the prediction is that by 2050, 80% of the islands could become uninhabitable.

In the special we meet passionate conservationists with innovative ideas, giving hope for the future of this unique little piece of paradise. I had such an amazing trip to the Maldives. This is a country that's facing head on, the devastating effects of climate change. Effects that are very real and very immediate. I met conservationists and scientists who are coming up with exciting and pioneering projects, creative minds that are thinking out of the box. It was incredibly inspiring to see bright individuals working together to come up with solutions. It really gave me hope for the future of these beautiful islands.'

Had you visited the Maldives before this trip at all?

I had been to the Maldives twice before, once on holiday and once to film for a children's series called 'Michaela's Wild Challenge', where I was challenged to do fun things with wildlife. One of my challenges was to see a shark in the dark! That was 20 years ago and since then tourism has hugely expanded and there has been a lot of development. This time my challenge was a bit more serious, to see what is being done to combat the very real effects of climate change in the Maldives.

What was your favourite part about filming this special?

The Maldives is a very beautiful place and the islands are idyllic, so filming was a real pleasure. It was also really inspiring meeting scientists and conservationists who are passionate about saving what is so precious. People with a passion and positive mindset to make things happen. It gave me a lot of hope.

Meeting Sarah Dole for instance a physicist originally from Sri Lanka but now living in the Maldives who is working with MIT to invent a way of ‘growing’ new islands to avoid having to dredge sand. Or Aya Naseem from the Maldives Coral Institute who has discovered more resilient forms of corals which are less susceptible to coral bleaching. They are both so committed to their work and such inspiring women.

You visit some amazing projects in the Maldives - did you know these kinds of projects were happening in the Maldives before you visited?

I was aware of regenerating coral reefs to protect the islands from erosion but I hadn't heard of 3D printing of coral reefs and making new islands by studying how sandbanks form naturally and then guiding the accumulation of sand using the forces of nature was something new to me.

Is sustainability a passion of yours?

I have spent my career in television filming wildlife and the natural environment so protecting it is definitely a passion. I think we should all be passionate about sustainability. I think as a species we are brilliant at acting in a crisis. Most people haven't grasped just how much of a crisis our planet is in, but for Maldivians, the effects of climate change and needing to come up with solutions, is very apparent. They can clearly see things have reached crisis point and many have realised they need to do something about it.

For consumers wanting to travel responsibly do you have any tips on how they can make their travel more sustainable?

We visited Soneva Fushi, a luxury resort that is trying hard to be more sustainable, reducing plastic and processing its waste to reuse, recycle and upcycle in an impressively efficient way.

There are many travel companies that are trying to be more sustainable and many are trying to offset. Some have worked out the carbon footprint of the trips they offer and invite travellers to donate to various offsetting programmes. I myself have recently got involved with research into saltmarsh restoration which is proving to be a fantastic habitat to sequester carbon. We can all do little things to be more sustainable, things like carrying your own water bottle instead of buying bottled water is an obvious one and we can all contribute to bigger projects like offsetting by planting trees or donating to projects like wetland restoration and researching and seeking out more sustainable travel companies.

How important do you think programmes like this are/how do you think they help?

Awareness is vital and hope is equally important. With Extreme Conservation, we want to show what positive things are being done so that people are inspired. It's easy these days to feel overwhelmed and hopeless, we want to inspire people to do the right thing, to come up with ideas that will make a difference, to appreciate natural beauty and want to protect it.

How serious is the environmental threat to countries like the Maldives?

Coral reefs are vital to the Maldives, they are the 1st line of defence from erosion. The reefs soak up the energy of waves which are getting more powerful because of climate change, the sea level is also rising and the corals are being bleached. Without coral reefs, the small, low lying islands are in danger of disappearing, so the environmental threat is very serious.

How did you see that threat manifesting itself?

On some of the islands we could clearly see where the beaches had been eroded and we could see how some of the coral reefs had been bleached. The islands are so low lying, there is no high ground to escape to. We went to a school on one of the islands that floods every year and every year the flooding is getting worse.

What impact does it have on the people living there?

The Maldives relies on tourism. If the resort islands disappear, it will have an enormous effect on the local people. If the islands they live on flood more frequently, it makes life hugely challenging. Male, the capital, is completely over developed. There is no more land to build on, so any erosion is disastrous. If the islands become uninhabitable, the future is obviously very bleak for people living there.

Which of the solutions you saw impressed you most and why?

The coral reef restoration. Seeing how much wildlife had returned in a short space of time was amazing. Scaled up and given financial support, so much could be done.

BBC World News and BBC Reel announce special episode “Extreme Conservation, The Maldives.”

Exploring how extreme conservation can save the beauty and nature of the Maldives, meeting passionate conservationists with innovative ideas, giving hope for the future of this unique little piece of paradise

In Extreme Conservation, airing in June on BBC World News and BBC Reel, BBC wildlife and conservation presenter Michaela Strachan tours the world meeting the individuals fighting against the extinction of species or even entire habitats, telling the extraordinary stories of their battle against the odds to help us all. For the first episode ‘The Maldives’ Michaela investigates the existential threat this stunning island nation faces, as these sandy islands are literally being washed off the map.

Michaela travels across the Maldives meeting those trying to save it and, in particular, focusing on technology being developed to help support coral reefs, game changing solutions in development to battle the effects of land reclamation and of course the efforts being made by resorts to further sustainable tourism.

Michaela Strachan says: “'I had such an amazing trip to the Maldives. This is a country that's facing head on, the devastating effects of climate change. Effects that are very real and very immediate. I met conservationists and scientists who are coming up with exciting and pioneering projects, creative minds that are thinking out of the box. It was incredibly inspiring to see bright individuals working together to come up with solutions. It really gave me hope for the future of these beautiful islands.”

Coral reefs

Coral reefs are critical in trying to dissipate the increasing wave energy of the ocean but face constant bleaching attacks. On the island of Fulhadoo Michaela meets the team from the Coral Institute who are researching how to make the reefs more resilient and developing techniques to regrow the reefs. Their work takes place in conjunction with several eminent international marine environment researchers from the UK, Palau and Australia. They advise on and learn from the work of the institute and to apply any findings elsewhere.

The next stop is Summer Island where Michaela dives with Arjan Sierink, a Dutch researcher pioneering techniques of 3D printing coral reefs in varying materials to encourage rapid growth.

Land reclamation

Michaela meets a team of MIT researchers working on a game changing alternative to the usual sand dredging technique for land reclamation. They show her the damage such processes can cause and introduce her to their technology which is harnessing the power of nature, rather than using machines to collect sand to form new islands.

Sustainable tourism

Tourism of course is the economic lifeblood of the country, but is not known for its sustainability credentials. Next up Michaela takes a deep dive into a forward-thinking resort founded by Sonu Shivdasani to see how they are promoting sustainable tourism in the Maldives. Sonu Shivdasani has worked hard to reduce his resort, Sonevafushi’s, carbon footprint. The resort is working hard to support sustainable tourism by using virtually no plastic and turning any waste it produces into souvenirs taken home by its visitors.

Extreme Conservation: The Maldives will be showing on BBC World News at Sat 11 June 17:30 SGT, Sun 12 June 05:30 SGT 1030 SGT 2330 SGT




You will also be able to view on BBC Reel, the premium video and short documentary destination of the BBC.

An upcoming episode of Extreme Conservation will be filmed in Turkey later this year.

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