Temple

on location in thailand

Temple native: ConVal grad making a name for herself as photographer, videographer

  • Molly Ferrill photographs rangers as they prepare for a parachute jump during a specialized training course in Thailand.

    Molly Ferrill photographs rangers as they prepare for a parachute jump during a specialized training course in Thailand.

  • Molly Ferrill pets a deer in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. The animals are so used to people camping in certain areas of the park they are tame enough to pet.

    Molly Ferrill pets a deer in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. The animals are so used to people camping in certain areas of the park they are tame enough to pet.

  • Molly Ferrill poses with Thai forest rangers she spent multiple weeks with while documenting a special training course they participated in this September in Thailand.

    Molly Ferrill poses with Thai forest rangers she spent multiple weeks with while documenting a special training course they participated in this September in Thailand.

  • Molly Ferrill photographs rangers as they prepare for a parachute jump during a specialized training course in Thailand.

    Molly Ferrill photographs rangers as they prepare for a parachute jump during a specialized training course in Thailand.

  • Forest rangers practice patrolling in the mangrove swamps on Koh Chang island in Thailand during a specialized training course documented by Temple native Molly Ferrill.

    Forest rangers practice patrolling in the mangrove swamps on Koh Chang island in Thailand during a specialized training course documented by Temple native Molly Ferrill.

  • A ranger repels from a practice tower.

    A ranger repels from a practice tower.

  • Rangers jump in the water for their first open water dive during a PADI scuba certification course.

    Rangers jump in the water for their first open water dive during a PADI scuba certification course.

  • Molly Ferrill learns to drive a Zodiac during a marine operations section of a training course for forest rangers she documented while in Thailand.

    Molly Ferrill learns to drive a Zodiac during a marine operations section of a training course for forest rangers she documented while in Thailand.

  • Molly Ferrill photographs rangers as they prepare for a parachute jump during a specialized training course in Thailand.
  • Molly Ferrill pets a deer in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. The animals are so used to people camping in certain areas of the park they are tame enough to pet.
  • Molly Ferrill poses with Thai forest rangers she spent multiple weeks with while documenting a special training course they participated in this September in Thailand.
  • Molly Ferrill photographs rangers as they prepare for a parachute jump during a specialized training course in Thailand.
  • Forest rangers practice patrolling in the mangrove swamps on Koh Chang island in Thailand during a specialized training course documented by Temple native Molly Ferrill.
  • A ranger repels from a practice tower.
  • Rangers jump in the water for their first open water dive during a PADI scuba certification course.
  • Molly Ferrill learns to drive a Zodiac during a marine operations section of a training course for forest rangers she documented while in Thailand.

Molly Ferrill’s career as a freelance photographer and filmmaker has put her in some pretty out-there situations. Take her most recent assignment: In eight weeks, she slept in a hammock in the jungle, filmed underwater in the ocean, learned to rappel, and earned a certification in parachute jumping.

It may sound like Ferrill was filming a big action film, but actually, she was capturing through film and photography the training of 25 Thai forest and anti-poaching rangers.

Ferrill, 23, originally of Temple, has always been interested in environmental concerns. After graduating ConVal High School in 2008, she attended Tufts University and graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in international relations and environmental studies, with a minor in multimedia arts. Since becoming a freelance photographer and videographer, she’s attempted to find work that supports those interests, including working with the Freeland Foundation, a Thailand-based international organization dedicated to ending human slavery and wildlife trafficking.

Having worked with Ferrill before, the foundation contacted her about documenting a new effort to support additional training for a select team of rangers that will eventually become a go-to team for dealing with the increasingly problematic and dangerous issue of wildlife poaching and illegal logging in Thailand. The training was offered in cooperation between Freeland and Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. Ferrill finished her work in Thailand at the end of November, and is currently back in the United States for a short stay. Ferrill’s work will be used in promotional materials for Freeland, and may eventually be incorporated in a documentary to spread awareness of the issues of poaching and illegal logging.

“It’s amazing how bad of an issue it’s become over the last two years,” said Ferrill, of the illegal harvesting of wildlife and timber. “There’s a lot of demand from China and the United, states where people are consuming illegal products. There’s also demand from within Thailand itself, of course.”

And it is an issue, said Ferrill, with poachers targeting animals as large as elephants and tigers, to small mammals like the slow loris. Even the fauna is not safe, with protected rosewood trees being illegally harvested for their wood. According to the World Wide Fund For Nature — formally known as the World Wildlife Fund — a ranger is killed during his line of duties every four days. In Thailand, about 50 rangers have been killed in the last four years.

Ferrill spent time in between documenting the training interviews with select members of the team and their families. Most of the rangers don’t do it for the pay, which is low, especially considering the possible dangers. Generally, they have a passion for protecting the wildlife and the landscape, Molly said.

“It’s pretty heroic from my perspective. They’re not motivated by money, that’s for sure. And they’re doing a very dangerous job, so they’re really risking their lives for this.”

And funding is low. Rangers don’t always start out with the training or equipment necessary to put a stop to poachers who are generally well-armed and organized. The training camp was one step towards fixing that problem.

The rangers were trained at a more thorough level than normal in the basics of their job, but also in covert operations, simulated poaching camp raids, interrogation, boat and scuba training for marine and underwater investigations, and rapelling and parachute jumping for when they have to respond by plane or helicopter. Following behind them the whole way was Ferrill.

When she got the call about the opportunity to document the team, Ferrill, who currently lives in Southeast Asia, was back in the United States working on a piece for National Geographic. She jumped at the chance to be involved, and got on a plane. The first week found her following the team into the Thai jungle for training simulations.

“It was boiling hot out. Intense and humid. You’re in the jungle, and it’s beautiful, but it’s oppressively hot. And it was the beginning of September, so it was the end of the rainy season. It was pouring every day and every night.”

The rain caused issues for Ferrill one night, when after improperly setting up her hammock, she woke to find herself sleeping in a pool of water. Though the hammocks were covered under tarp tents, Ferrill had set her tent up in a fashion that rainwater poured down the ropes right into her hammock.

“And somehow I didn’t wake up,” she said with a laugh. The rangers showed her how to set the ropes so that was no longer an issue, though. “It was a lot of learning experiences. I feel like I’m getting my own wilderness training. I love the experience of being out in the jungle for weeks at a time. I’m learning a lot, and I’m always going to make mistakes. I just woke up and said, ‘So, guys, what’s wrong with this?’ And now I know how to set up a hammock in the jungle.”

She spent time pretending to be a tourist, with a particularly good camera, while the team was trained in undercover investigations on a local island with actors filling the part of poachers. When the rangers were being trained in scuba, Ferrill went underwater with her camera. She followed along after them during the everyday things, too, documenting the simple acts of eating and relaxing.

“This was just an unbelievable experience,” said Ferrill. “It was really up my alley to be working with these guys. With my freelancing, my goal is to try to cover issues that really matter to me. I seek out environmental topics that need to be seen by the public. This was a great opportunity to help these guys document their work. I’ve been interested in photography for a long time. I got my first camera in middle school, just a little point-and-shoot, and from the beginning, I would go out and photograph the forest behind my house. This is the type of documentary work I want to be doing. I get to document an issue that I think it really important.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.w

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