Filmmaker Focuses Lens On Cheetah Conservation

Brian and Marilu O'lyaryz

Tazi Phillips, Global Animal

The demand for luxurious cheetah fur in Africa and Asia has devastated wild cheetah populations. Over 100,000 cheetahs roamed the savannah in the 1800’s, but less than 7,500 exist in the wild today. What gives? With the threat of poaching and a high cub mortality rate, these big cats need all the help they can get. 

A cinematic duo are doing what they can to save this dwindling population. Miami filmmaker Marilu O’lyaryz and her husband, award-winning videographer Brian O’lyaryz, have a new project in the works. This spring, they hope to travel to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in South Africa to highlight the non-profit organization’s efforts on cheetah conservation.

Brian and Marilu O'lyaryz
Brian and Marilu O’lyaryz

The documentary is a multifaceted campaign. The goal of the film is to educate and further the conservation efforts for cheetahs and other wild species. Available to educators, zoos, and conservation groups at no cost, Marilu hopes to integrate the film and its message into educational outreach programs and curriculums.

[quote]I believe that we have an obligation to future generations to make right what previous generations have wronged; this is my attempt to do so, If we can educate and enlighten others to understand that without our immediate action our children will never have the opportunity to see firsthand wild Cheetahs running free. We need to attempt to make longterm change a reality, without this then what can we honestly teach our children about what is just and what is not? Without your support we cannot accomplish this. – Marilu O’lyaryz[/quote]

While Marilu recognizes the presence of past and current wildlife documentaries, she believes that there is an opportunity for more. She hopes that the film will prove that a big budget is not necessary to produce quality shows. 

Marilu’s passion for film started at age ten. She grew up messing around with her grandfather’s 8mm camera. As a teenager, she had the opportunity to work as a production assistant on Any Given Sunday, bringing her into the professional world of film and television.

Her love of animals and nature also began at an early age. Every birthday was spent at the Miami Zoo, and although Marilu had thoughts on becoming a veterinarian, her aversion to dissecting animals led her on a different path. 

The cinematic duo is hoping to raise $8,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the documentary. While most of the equipment is already paid for, donations for the no-frills trip will be used for airfare, excess baggage costs, and the hiring of a local African filmmaker to help with some shots. The documentary will be edited in the U.S. at no cost.

For those who want to do more than just donate, Marilu hopes that people will help the outreach program by getting the film into their local schools.

To donate to the Cheetah Conservation Documentary, please visit their page on All donations must be received by March 26, 2012. Follow the films official blog at 



  1. This is a great endeavor and we wish it much success. Just to clarify, the main causes of threats to the survival of the wild cheetah are loss of habitat and conflict with humans. It is only through education and practical solutions working with those who share their land with wildlife, that the cheetah, Africa’s most endangered big cat, can survive.

    In the early 1900s, there were an estimated 100,000 cheetahs in 44 countries. Current estimates of cheetah populations estimate approx. 10,000 in 24 African countries and a tiny population of less than 100 individuals in Iran. The cheetah needs enough land to roam and people willing to learn how to co-exist with this magnificent animal. Without these, the wild cheetah could disappear from this planet within 20 years.

    A project that aims at raising awareness about the cheetah’s plight and the work being done by many to save it from extinction is always welcome. We look forward to seeing the final product!

    Patricia Tricorache
    Cheetah Conservation Fund