Secrets At Sunrise

Secrets At Sunrise follows the dramatic fight to save a species on the brink of extinction and the team of passionate individuals who are determined to help the beautiful western ground parrot survive against the odds.

Clinging to life in a remote pocket of Australian wilderness the parrot faces many challenges - wildfire, climate change, habitat loss and feral cat predation all threaten to wipe out the last 150 individuals of the species.

Yet there is hope! Two teams of scientists and a group of dedicated volunteers are battling to restore numbers. The Department of Parks and Wildlife are working the field to protect the wild population, while specialists at Perth Zoo are desperately trying to establish a breeding program.

This emotionally gripping story alternates between these two core teams. The first is led by Parks and Wildlife ecologist Sarah Comer as she and the field team battle it out to save the extremely vulnerable ground parrots on Western Australia’s spectacular south coast. While a specialist group of bird breeding experts led by Arthur Ferguson, Supervisor of Australian Fauna at Perth Zoo, have been tasked with establishing a world first captive breeding program with a handful of the precious parrots.

Through heartbreak and triumph this rollercoaster journey has audiences on the edge of their seats. But just when things are starting to look up, disaster strikes as several massive wildfires tear across the landscape, destroying 90% of the parrots last remaining habitat. In the aftermath, can this team of wildlife champions bring one of the worlds rarest birds back from the brink?

  • Jennene Riggs
  • Jennene Riggs
  • Jennene Riggs
    The Search for the Ocean's Super Predator, Super Predator
  • Sarah Comer
    Key Cast
  • Arthur Ferguson
    Key Cast
  • Ash Gibson Greig
    Original Music Score
    Who Do You Think You Are, Jandamarra's War, The War That Changed Us, Yagan, Death of the Megabeasts, Murdoch
  • John Carozzi
    The Search for the Ocean's Super Predator, Outback Truckers, Alone Amongst Grizzlies, Call of the Coorong
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Natural History, Science, Wildlife
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 19 minutes 29 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    April 29, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    200,000 AUD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    High Definition
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Jennene Riggs

A passionate advocate for the natural environment, Jennene Riggs has been filming Natural History documentaries since 1998, originally starting out with the National Geographic special ‘Tiger Shark’ (1999), before concentrating the next decade on Filming and Producing over ten highly acclaimed and resourced wildlife documentaries together with her husband Dave Riggs. During this period Jennene established a strong relationship with many scientific organizations including universities, zoos and aquariums, and the Department of Parks and Wildlife which has allowed her privileged insight into many cutting edge wildlife research programs.

Jennene has filmed across much of Australia, both on land and in the sea, and in 2000 the Riggs’ began documenting the CSIRO’s pioneering white shark satellite tagging program which ultimately led to them filming the tagging of a great white shark which was mysteriously eaten by another marine predator down in the depths of the Bremer Canyon, the story of which the award winning, worldwide hit ‘The Search for the Ocean’s Super Predator’ (ABC, Smithsonian, Al Rayyan TV, NHK, Channel 5, TVNZ and National Geographic Channel) was based on in 2013.

In 2015 she was Cinematographer and Co-Producer on the blockbuster ‘Super Predator’ for Discovery Channel, which is the highest rating show ever for a Shark Week special.

Jennene thrives on the challenge of engaging an audience to sympathise with an environmental cause through highly creative yet ethical film making that showcases the unique behaviours of her animal cast and provides exclusive access to the fascinating world of those who study them.

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Director Statement

‘Secrets at Sunrise’ is a feature length documentary that draws audiences in to the dramatic fight to save the Western Ground Parrot and the enormous challenges faced by the team who have banded together to save it from extinction.

It was during production of a previous documentary in 2011 that filmmaker Jennene Riggs first became aware of this passionate team of conservationists determined to save the critically endangered bird, and after visiting them in the field in and seeing first hand the comradery between the Parks and Wildlife scientists as they set up their bush camp - literally in the middle of nowhere - she knew this was a very special story that just had to be told. These are passionate people doing extraordinary things under very unique circumstances.

For the audience, it's an unprecedented opportunity to get behind-the-scenes of Parks and Wildlife's fascinating work with not only the western ground parrot, but also a whole spectrum of other Australian creatures – Honey Possums, Dibblers, Dunnarts, Bandicoots and Wambengers, (amongst other bizarrely named critters) presenting a world not many are privileged to see, but the filmmaker has exclusive access to.

Jennene was on the ground during the wildfires which wiped out 90% of the ground parrots habitat in late 2015, and captured sensitive footage of the fire crew actively fighting the blaze. This is the first time a filmmaker has been allowed to document this dangerous work and, together with Parks and Wildlife's new feral cat eradication program - which see's them euthanase these aggressive predators to save native species - this controversial material engages and sparks debate in its viewers.

Thanks to an array of CCTV cameras allowing a reality TV style insight into the private lives of the captive parrots – the film showcases never-before-seen behaviour of this cryptic bird and juxtaposes what’s happening in the field with progress at the Zoo. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for both teams, and the filmmaker has documented the extreme highs and plummeting lows of this radical learning curve for those involved in conservation of this incredibly vulnerable species.

The urgency of this story will not be lost on anyone who loves animals and appreciates the beauty of the natural world. The breathtaking beauty of the field locations on the remote south coast of Western Australia, accompanied by the distinct sounds of the Australian bush, instills a sense of awe and wonder.

Each of the documentary’s key elements – its struggles, its emotion, its science, its intrigue, and its raw beauty – serve to underline the vital cultural and environmental significance of an intact natural world to a global audience.