Elephants are my favorite animals. I fell in love with them when I saw a youtube video about an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. That video led to another engaging video about the rescue of an orphaned elephant in Kenya and a bunch of fascinating documentaries as well.
One film started with an image of earth from outer space. The next second, it zoomed to a close-up of a elephant walking in Africa. What a dramatic beginning! The animals on the savannah had this eternal feeling, transporting me to a different time and space.
After seeing the documentaries, I could really relate to Kate Brooks, the director of the new Tribeca film “The last Animals", when she described how she became interested in making this film. Kate was a veteran war photographer who went on vacation to Kenya to recover from the inhumanity she had witnessed in Afghanistan. "Upon seeing a herd of wild elephants for the first time, I was reminded in an instant that, in spite of all the human destruction on the planet, there was still some natural order. That experience ultimately led me to want to help them."
I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the film at Seattle International Film Festival last weekend. Anticipating the sad, brutal poaching scene, I hesitated at first, but the photo below brought back the thrill I experienced watching that first youtube video. So I went.
The film was primarily about extinct northern white rhinos but elephants are on the same path. With poaching carried out on an industrial scale (National Geographic reported in 2014 that 100,000 elephants had been killed by poachers in just 3 years), and ivory and tusks valued at more than cocaine and gold, elephants may become extinct sooner than most of us predict.
I remember receiving an ivory necklace when I was young. I hardly knew anything about poaching then. Ivory is still prized in Japan because it makes the highest quality personal stamp. The makers actually encourage shoppers to buy "while it is available".
Poaching does not happen only in far away places. Just this year in March, at a zoo outside Paris, a young rhino was shot in the head multiple times and his horn was hacked off.
I cannot stomach brutality done to wild animals. Sadly, the violence does not stop at poaching. In some area, elephants are gunned down because of “overpopulation.” That horrific image is still stuck in my mind.
Our idyllic elephant design seems to be a fairly tale now. I hope Kate Brooks’s "The Last Animals" will bring increased awareness to the tragedy of wildlife trade. I pray for these majestic animals.