New documentary focuses on tigers, lions in captivity
David Enden likes big cats. What he doesn't like is that there are only about 3,000 tigers left in the world.
The 24-year-old Ward Melville High School alum, along with fellow alumni Chris Capelluto and radio personality at WBLI and WBAB, John "John Online" Mingione, is producing a documentary to expose the risks of big cats in the exotic animal trade.
"I'm calling it Project Epidemic right now because that's what I want this to do," Enden said. "I want the awareness to spread [like an epidemic.\"
Owning big cats — tigers, lions, jaguars and leopards — can be dangerous without proper enclosures and locks. The cats can escape from cages and wander around and tranquilizers don't work on every animal because different sized animals require different dosages. The big cats that are in the exotic pet trade are sometimes abused and neglected in captivity and abandoned after they grow too large to be pets.
Enden interned with Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas for six months in 2013 and has a BS in conservation biology from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse.
He contacted Capelluto and Mingione several months ago to ask if the two — both are filmmakers — wanted to help produce a film to spread awareness of the dangers of the exotic pet trade. Capelluto studied film at NYU Tisch School of Arts and Mingione studied media production at SUNY New Paltz.
"What would you guys think about getting the best footage of your life?" Enden said.
Mingione and Capelluto agreed.
"People who get these animals don't know how to take care of them," Capelluto said. "They are no longer cute and little. They grow into dangerous tigers."
"It's kind of mind blowing to me," Mingione said of what he learned about big cats in the exotic pet trade.
The trio will be using some of Enden's footage from his summer 2012 trip to Kruger National Park in South Africa where he studied big cats.
The three will get additional footage during a road trip to Arkansas where Enden interned and will get interviews from Enden's professors at SUNY ESF. They are also hoping to speak to officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"This documentary is the 'Blackfish' of tiger documentaries," Capelluto said in a video appeal, referring to a documentary about SeaWorld's captivity of marine animals and the killer whale that killed three of its trainers.
The film will focus both on people who try to domesticate big cats and those who try to stop them. Mingione said presenting both sides will empower the audience to take a side.
"We're looking to approach the film from different angles," he said. "We want to talk to people who house these lions and tigers in their living room."
They are looking to finish the film during late autumn/ early winter and publish it on YouTube and Vimeo. Mingione and Capelluto also want to enter the documentary in different film festivals. They are also targeting teens by partnering with their high school to show the film.
"It's showing people how they can get involved and help people with the issue," Capelluto said.
The three are planning a fundraiser with Wake the Sun, a vintage rock band, local hip hop artist DEPO; and Ward Melville graduate Steve Wein, also known as Snare Drum Steve, at The Bench Bar & Grill in Stony Brook on May 9.