by Helen Holt
A Timaru expat has made his mark on YouTube, filming all the creepy crawlies the average New Zealander dreads.
James Osborne began making mini documentaries last year on his tramps just outside Taipei in Taiwan.
He films a variety of animals such as cobras, rat snakes, tiger beetles and glowing scorpions.
His YouTube channel has 2000 subscribers, and gets up to 4000 views per video.
He works in Taiwan teaching English, and goes out tramping and filming up to three times a week.
Mr Osborne has always been fascinated by creepy crawlies.
“Ever since I was a kid, I used to find weird animals in the garden.”
He said he was not bothered by snakes.
“People get bitten if they don’t look where they’re going, or if they grab a branch that has a snake on it.
“I know most Taiwanese snakes, so I know which ones are venomous.
“If I don’t know the snake, then I assume it’s venomous.
“Generally, they aren’t that dangerous. They don’t target you, they’ll only bite if you harass the snake.
“If it’s cornered, then it will strike.
“The biggest dangers for me would be on the road. There are also dogs that would be far more dangerous to me.”
The ants were annoying, he said.
“I went out in jandals once, and instantly regretted it.
“If you stand still, next thing you’ve got ants all over your legs, or if you kneel down to see something, you’ll be covered in them.”
Mr Osborne left New Zealand in 2007. He first travelled to Korea, followed by Columbia, and China.
“After I finished my degree, I met someone who was going to China to teach English. I thought the idea of going to Asia was cool. I was fascinated by southeast Asia. There was something mysterious about the idea of oriental architecture, the temples and the jungles.”
Two years ago, he moved to Taiwan. Taipei’s proximity to nature was appealing to Mr Osborne.
“In Taipei, I can finish work, hop on my scooter, and be in a national park in less than an hour.
“I go out between once to three times a week. You have to go out quite often to come across something unique or interesting.
“I often drive out in the evenings, stay the night out in my hammock, and then drive back into the city in the late morning.
“It’s quite peaceful, with the tropical noises. They create this chorus of sounds, which is quite meditative.”
Some of his favourite finds on his tramps included a pangolin (scaly anteater), a crab spider attacking a blind snake, flying squirrels, and a fishing spider catching frogs.
He is in the process of filming the Taipei Grand Trail, which can be done in sections of six to nine hours.
“There’s a promotion to do a hike in the grand trail. It’s a great chance to see what animals can be seen.
“It gave me the idea to make a video series.”
Mr Osborne started filming nature two years ago as a way to share his experiences with his friends back home.
“I used to send my friends pictures of all the cool snakes and bugs I’d see. They suggested I start making videos.
“The first video I made, it took about 40-50 hours to edit. It was a pretty basic video, but I was just getting my head around the software. I’d never made videos before, so I used a lot of YouTube tutorials.”
His videos are mostly viewed by people in Taiwan, and occasionally he gets recognised out on his tramps.
“When I’m out in nature at night I’ll see a bright light from some people taking photos. I’ll say hello to them and have a chat, and they’ll be like ‘Are you James?’ I’ll realise that they watch my videos.
“It makes me a bit nervous.The whole process has been quite interesting. I still haven’t got used to having fans.”
Through his fan base, he had helped people conquer their fears of snakes and other creatures.
Mr Osborne uploads to his channel weekly.
He hopes to join YouTube’s partner programme by the end of this year, which would give him the option to monetise his videos.
“I would like to get into the partner programme. That’s my current aim, but I don’t think I’ll monetise the videos for a while.
“Now the videos I make, it’ll take 10-15 hours, depending on how long it is, and whether I need to edit the lighting.
“Making videos is something I’ve enjoyed more and more since I started. Sometimes I think ‘What am I doing? I don’t make any money. There’s no boss telling me what to do’.
“This experience has given me an interesting skill set that I could apply elsewhere. I’ve learnt so much, and enjoyed it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”