A common view of the ivory poaching crisis is that it’s an old crisis. One that our parents had to worry about in the 1970s. Unfortunately, the resurgence of ivory poaching is very real, and more critical than it has ever been. Everyone has heard about blood diamonds, but how about blood ivory?
The problem is vast and complex, spanning many countries and cultures across the world. Elephants are dying by the hundreds every day, and so are people on both sides of the coin. It is an overwhelming topic to attempt to package in one feature documentary. Somehow, When Giants Fall, a documentary by journalist Leslie Griffith, manages to do just that.
A fine mix of breathtaking scenery and heartbreaking facts, When Giants Fall seamlessly takes you to different regions of Africa to show the unique situations different communities face in this terrifying poaching epidemic. To think that our children will read about elephants one day in the history books, extinct on planet earth due to human greed and desperation, is almost too much to bear. The best thing to do is become aware and educated about how losing these keystone species in the world affects the rest of the planet.
In the film we also get to meet particular elephants, and the people that study them, bringing us closer to the beauty and vitality of the wild world. It is also a treat to learn fun factoids about the matriarchal pachyderms. The structural breakdown of elephant society is a frightening byproduct of poaching older elephants for their large tusks. When the younger animals are forced to take charge, the whole herd is weakened by the loss of matriarchs.
We come to understand that this is a human problem, as much as an environmental one. The driving forces behind this impending extinction are money and war.
People are dying too. In fact, tragedy struck again only a few weeks ago with the death of British helicopter pilot Roger Gower on January 29, 2016. Roger was in Tanzania on a routine flight with a colleague going out to inspect some recent elephant carcasses. Sadly, poachers were still in the area and shot at the helicopter with AK47’s. One of those bullets fatally wounded Roger, 37, who managed to first land the helicopter safely but could not be rescued in time.
More about Roger from the BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-35450490
The good news is that the word is spreading, and traction is being gained every day. Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and Prince William are speaking out and beginning to legislate against wildlife trafficking. Stars from Hollywood and China such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Yao Ming are collaborating with organizations to spread the word and donating money to fund anti-poaching initiatives.
The Elephant Crisis Fund is a good example.
In Griffith’s capable hands, When Giants Fall manages to deliver information in a matter-of-fact way without resorting to melodramatic score or preaching. The passion and urgency of the situation delivers itself naturally through the glorious footage of Africa and the genuine honestly pouring from the people on the front lines.
Go and see this film, Sunday March 13 at 3 PM at the Vancity Theatre in Vancouver. The film is followed by a panel discussion with the director, Leslie Griffith, Dr. Jake Wall (Chief Geospatial Scientist – Save The Elephants) and other local wildlife experts.
Watch the trailer here:
By Christina Toms
Christina Toms is a WIFTV Board Member and filmmaker. She became interested in the plight of African elephants after visiting Kenya in 2013, after which she co-founded the local non-profit group Elephanatics, hoping to raise awareness about the issue in Vancouver communities. Follow her on twitter @xtinatoms or Elephanatics @ElephanaticsBC .
If you would like to take action, please visit elephanatics.org for local events and education initiatives.
Adopt and elephant family where it’s needed most and/or listen to elephants language at the Elephant Listening Project: elephantlisteningproject.org .