Nearly four years ago I was leafing through the pages of a magazine when an article struck me. It was about elephants being killed by poachers in Chad, a country in Central Africa. Not one or two elephants hunted by locals for meat – but about dozens at a time, brutally slaughtered by well-organized gangs with automatic rifles. They first shoot the babies so that their mothers, delirious with grief, give up their protection. Then they shoot them as well. Often the elephants are still alive when the poachers hack off their tusks, leaving the bleeding and dying animals behind.
I was shocked and appalled. I wanted to know more, so I made some enquiries and spoke to animal conservationists. I discovered that these weren’t isolated cases but that poaching was escalating throughout Africa. And I learned that these highly organized criminal gangs not only attack elephants but other endangered species like rhinos and tigers as well. I couldn’t believe that this was happening right here, right now.
I feel that this is just not acceptable. We as human beings can’t let a bunch of unscrupulous criminals destroy the beauty of our earth because of their unbridled greed. Governments need to take action instead of treating wildlife crime as a minor offense. But most importantly people need to know what’s going on, especially those living in Asia.
Ivory, rhino horn, and tiger skin are popular status symbols among affluent Asians. Rhino horn has now surpassed the value of gold; it’s crushed into a powder and snorted like cocaine. There is a dangerous myth among consumers that tusks and horns simply fall out, like human teeth. They are not aware of the brutality involved in the harvesting of elephant tusks and rhino horn. Consumers are also being duped into believing that rhino horn and tiger wine are potent and hold medicinal qualities.
As a documentary filmmaker I always try to make films that I feel are relevant and important. But this subject is especially close to my heart. If this slaughter continues there won’t be any more tigers, rhinos or elephants left in the wild. All these beautiful creatures will be gone in a few years from now. Can you imagine a world without these majestic animals? What an incredibly sad and empty place this would be.
I knew we could make a difference if we managed to show the terrible slaughter that is going on right now, once we uncover who is pulling the strings in this brutal war on nature.
Help us make visible to everyone what is going on before it’s too late. Let’s not just stand at the sidelines and do nothing while ruthless criminals and thoughtless greedy people who just want a new trinket, a rug or some faux aphrodisiacs are ruining our planet.
Twenty years ago, I had a magical moment. I visited a friend who lives in Durban, South Africa. On the third day we drove up to Kruger National Park. It took us most of the day and it was sunset by the time we reached the park’s entrance. We drove slowly as the rangers had warned us to watch out for animals.
Then it happened. We turned a corner and there it was, less than fifty yards ahead of us. A rhino.
Slowly, majestically, it turned its head towards us. We gasped. We could feel its raw energy, its primeval power. It was bigger than our car. It could have attacked us, hurt us. Instead it looked at us for what seemed like an eternity, then slowly turned and trotted away peacefully.
I saw many animals over the next few days but nothing impressed me more than this huge, beautiful creature. Even now, twenty years later, I remember this moment as if it was yesterday.
When Jakob came to me and said that rhinos are being brought to the brink of extinction because their horns are ground up and used as party drugs, I couldn’t believe it. Then I saw the horrific pictures of slaughtered rhinos. Not just a few, but dozens. Hundreds. That’s when I decided that we must do a film about this.
The killing must stop right now because if it doesn’t, then the threat that rhinos, elephants and tigers become extinct in our own lifetimes is real. And then we have lost some of the most beautiful creatures that have ever lived.
Please help us raise awareness to stop the slaughter of these iconic species. Let’s all work together so people in the future can have magical moments like the one I had in South Africa twenty years ago.
Tristan Chytroschek, Producer
When I left Australia to see the world one of my closest friends, Bev, gave me a little leather elephant to take with me as a good luck charm. Going to Africa and seeing these incredible animals up close was on my travel bucket list.
Now its, many, many years later and I have travelled the world making films but sadly am yet to make it to see the elephants. I came close just over twenty years ago when my husband was on location making a movie in Zimbabwe, but instead ended up at the hospital with my sick baby. Sadly, there’s been no opportunity since then.
But I keep up to date on various issues in Africa and keep contact with fellow filmmakers in South Africa.
And people like Kuki Gallman, author of “I Dreamed of Africa” are heroes. She has turned her enormous ranch into a conservation park for Elephants and other wild animals and has re-trained her staff to combat poachers, educate their friends and protect these animals. Daphne Sheldrick is another. Her family Foundation – the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – is the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. Just two of many strong animal advocates who make a difference every day.
So when my friend Tristan Chrytroschek suggested we partner on his anti-poaching film I jumped at the chance. I am still completely shocked by the poaching statistics that show that elephants, rhinos and tigers could be gone in the wild in my lifetime.
We cannot let this happen and I firmly believe that if we can rally everyone from the grassroots up to the rich and powerful we can put an end to this ruthless illegal wildlife trafficking.. They are not trinkets, remedies or rugs! I truly believe if we can stop the demand we can stop the trafficking. We can all make a difference by making aware and considered consumer choices, so add your voice and spread the message.
And yes, I still have my little elephant…both a little worse for wear decades later!
After studying philosophy, history and religious sciences at university, Jakob Kneser began working as a film director, author and editor. Since 2002, he has directed numerous reports, features and documentaries for arts and science television programmes. Jakob has also written and produced various radio features about cultural and scientific topics. Since 2006, he has been concentrating on creating longer non-fiction television formats. In 2009, Jakob started working as a freelance lecturer in journalism at the Humboldt University in Berlin.
Selected Works: Food for Thought (WDR, 2010), Collective Minds (ZDF/arte, 2009), End of a Legend (ARTE, 2006), Cuban Roots (VIVA, 2002)
Award-winning documentary filmmaker and producer Tristan Chytroschek has worked for the BBC and Channel Four in Great Britain and for Discovery/TLC in the United States. He lived and worked in London, Los Angeles, Mexico City and Cordoba/Argentina, before he returned to his native Germany. Since 2004, he has been the co-owner of the Hamburg-based documentary production company a&o buero.
Notable awards: 2012 International Emmy (Winner) for Songs of War (ZDF/ARTE, SBS, PLANETE, TVI, VRT, DBS), Ludwig Bölkow Journalism Award for Quarks & Co. (WDR, Germany), Emmy nomination for Junkyard Wars (Discovery Channel, USA)
An award-winning independent filmmaker, Anne’s passion for story telling began as a teenager writing for her father’s country newspaper in South Australia. This led to a career in journalism with major Australian newspaper and television organizations. She has been producing, directing, writing, and story-editing docs and factual series for over 20 years, resulting in hundreds of hours of documentaries and television series, and won many awards, including a Canadian Gemini, Australian AFI and Dendy, top prizes from New York, Chicago and Houston and had her worked screened at many international festivals. Anne’s work has and continues to find appreciative audiences around the world.
Rob Ruzic has been editing feature documentaries and reality television for over a decade. Documentaries he has edited have screened at film festivals internationally including The Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs and The Viennale. He has worked with many celebrated filmmakers including Martin Lavut, Michael McNamara and Dennis Mohr. His work on the docu-series Fanboy Confessional earned him a C.C.E. Awards nomination for Best Editing in Lifestyle/Reality. He is currently editing a feature documentary profiling the living legends of burlesque, directed by Rama Rau.
Since 1995, a&o buero has produced more than 80 documentaries. a&o buero has received the Human Rights Film Award, the French-German Journalists’ Award the Axel Springer Award, and an International Emmy Award, along with other prestigious awards, for its films.
Selected Works: Children of the Taliban, Caught Between the Lines, Songs of War, The Queen and Her Prime Ministers … More
For over 20 years, Anne Pick and Bill Spahic, the award winning team behind Real to Reel Productions Inc. (R2R), a dynamic Toronto, Canada-based production company, have been creating factual programming and documentaries. Real to Reel films span several genres, from social issue and pop culture, to biography, history, and the arts; on 2D, 3D and multi-platform. R2R promises engaging stories and high production values.
Selected Works: Animism: People Who Love Objects, Iris Chang: the Rape of Nanking, Out in the Cold, Ryan’s Well, Yours Al starring Gordon Pinsent, Helen’s War: Portrait of a Dissident … More