Over the past few years, the slaughter of African elephants and rhinoceros has skyrocketed to supply international markets with their tusks and horns. Ivory has been dubbed the white gold of jihad and rhino horn now has a higher market value than cocaine. With the expansion of radical Islamist and independent militias in Africa, along with criminal syndicates, the daring groups carrying out these bloody “harvests” are killing these animals at unprecedented rates.
In November of 2012, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a formal statement highlighting the crucial links between wildlife trade, terrorism and the security of international borders. Since then, the Clinton Foundation has launched an 80 million dollar initiative to combat wildlife trafficking and President Obama has issued an executive order to tackle one of the largest illicit trades in the world.
The postcolonial chapter in international wildlife conservation efforts, which focused on establishing parks and protected areas, and appeasing the economic and developmental needs of local and regional communities, has not been enough to stop poaching. Since the early 2000s, the integrity of national boundaries, the interest of more widely varied international stakeholders including Asian and South Asian countries, and the interpellation of rural populations living in wildlife-rich areas by non state actors may all come to define an era in which the protection of ecosystems and wildlife revolve around appeals to national, regional, and international security within a war on terror world.
This project hones the recent epidemic of highly effective poaching, documenting not only the ways that animals are killed, and within what conservation contexts these losses are incurred, but also how their body parts circulate as commodities within both legal and illegal trade networks. The dilemmas of contemporary conservation are profoundly transnational, and vary importantly from site to site, but collectively reflect the end of the wild populations of valuable species.
In 2014 the National Academy of Sciences released a report substantiating that more than 100,000 elephants have been killed over the last three years, though many conservationists believe the number to be as many as 50,000 elephants per year based on the large scale seizures being intercepted. Meanwhile 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa at an all time record high for the past decade; there are less than 25,000 on the planet. In the face of these stark statistics, the film follows the heroic efforts of conservationists struggling to protect these majestic creatures to the desperate measures being taken to save the Northern White rhinos who are on the verge of extinction.
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