Children from Esperanza village in the heart of the Amazon
Peru, like so many Latin American countries, is diverse and fascinating. The landscape, food, and people can change dramatically depending on where you are. When I went there in February it was only the second time I'd been to south America.
Most of my time was spent in Iquitos the capital of the Peruvian Amazon. It's an incredibly beautiful place which can only be reached by air or boat. The most interesting way to get there is by boat from a neighbouring city, that way you get to travel along the Amazon, the worlds largest and most famous river. Trust me you won't be disappointed, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking! The banks are covered by lush jungle and at the moment the place is teaming with wildlife. As we drifted along one of the many Amazon tributary's, the sounds of tropical birds, monkeys and other animals filled my ears with a wild and natural symphony. Traveling through this part of the world felt like a magical once in a lifetime experience.
Sunset in Esperanza
Unfortunately I also saw the ugly side of life in the Amazon basin, I was there with Producer and Director Will West to document the recent spike in the illegal trade of Wildlife. This was perhaps my most ambitious film yet. Fernando Lucena (@FL_films) a film maker by trade was our fixer in Peru. After extensive research he managed to find a trader who sold wildlife illegally, and lived in Belen the cities biggest market. The plan was for me to pose as a wealthy businessman from the UK, who supposedly had a collection of rare animals back in England and wanted to buy more in Peru to take home. I had to meet the trader in her home, right in the heart of the market wearing a hidden camera, and try to capture images of the exotic pets that she was selling. This was potentially very risky as Belen market is a hotspot for the illegal trade of wild animals. We were told most of the traders knew what they were doing was against the law, so they were extremely wary of outsiders.
"Chill out Will its only a camera!" 😂
Producer Director Will West making friends with Britte the cheeky Bald Uakari at Pilpintuwasi wildlife sanctuary
Dr Noga Shanee (@NogaShanee) a primatologist and wildlife activist has dedicated most of her life to saving primates in the wild. Noga told us she'd carried out many operations similar to ours in Belen market in the past, successfully managing to gather evidence and expose illegal animal traffickers. As a result she now feared for her life and could not be seen anywhere near Belen in case she might be recognised. I knew if things went wrong (if I was caught with the camera or if our trafficker became suspicious) Will, Fernando, and myself, could end up in a very tricky situation, stuck in this traders house. All she had to do was call out and we would be surrounded by a mob of angry market traders. So our plan had to work!
Me on the outskirts of Belen market
You can watch the full version of Peru's Monkey Business on All4 http://www.channel4.com/programmes/unreported-world/on-demand/65524-001
Here's a link to the shortened version. Apologies if you find some of the footage upsetting!