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Environment

Gripping New Documentary Shows Plight of These Vanishing African Animals

Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya. Kate Brooks for The Last Animals

When filmmaker Kate Brooks began to film her documentary on Northern White Rhinos, there were only seven of them left in the world. 

Now, just a few years later, there are three. And the time to save this population is running dangerously low.  

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Brooks’ documentary, “The Last Animals,” gives a visually-stunning picture of these magnificent creatures, as well as the poachers that have brought the population to its knees. 

Zakouma National Park, Chad. Kate Brooks for The Last Animals

Zakouma National Park, Chad. Kate Brooks for The Last Animals
Courtesy of Kate Brooks

Zakouma National Park, Chad. Kate Brooks for The Last Animals

Zakouma National Park, Chad. Kate Brooks for The Last Animals

Buffalo Springs National Reserve, Kenya. Kate Brooks for The Last Animals

Buffalo Springs National Reserve, Kenya. Kate Brooks for The Last Animals

Lake Chad, Chad. Kate Brooks for The Last Animals

Lake Chad, Chad. Kate Brooks for The Last Animals
Courtesy of Kate Brooks

Though it focuses primarily on the plight of the Northern White Rhino, the documentary also takes into consideration other animal groups threatened by increasingly-efficient poaching groups, which function essentially as organized crime syndicates

These numbers are staggering. 

Conservationists estimate that upwards of 50,000 African elephants are killed across the continent each year for their ivory tusks. In South Africa, more than 1,200 rhinos were poached in the past decade for their horns. 

Read more: Horny Male Seeks Love: This Northern White Rhino Needs Your Right Swipes on Tinder

Brooks, who captured the fate of these animal populations, is an accomplished filmmaker who has documented topics as varied as child abuse in Russia, US foreign policy in Pakistan, and kickboxing girls in Kabul. While her experience had previously centered on documenting conflict zones, she turned her head to issues of animal poaching after an eye-opening trip to Kenya. 

“If we want to have a planet with animals on it, there’s not a lot of time left,” Brooks told Global Citizen. “We as a global community need to recognize that this truly is a global problem and that we need to take a united stance against it.” 

Even those charged with protecting animals at South African wildlife reserves have been targeted by poachers. More than 1,000 park rangers have been killed, Brooks estimated. 

Read More: China Will End Ivory Trade This Year in a Big Win for Elephants

The ivory trade “exploits the most vulnerable,” she said. “The people that are the most impoverished are not the criminal cartels but the foot soldiers carrying out the poaching.” 

THELASTANIMALS_RYAN_YOUNGBLOOD03.JPGImage: Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. Ryan Youngblood for The Last Animals

Brooks’ film shows how the criminal cartels have taken advantage of people living in poverty to drive their multi-million dollar global industry. 

But her film also shows how legislation in countries like China and the United States can make a difference for these human and animal populations. 

Read More: Poachers Killed a White Rhino for Its Horn — in the Middle of a Paris Zoo

China announced that it plans to shutter the ivory trade by the end of 2017. In the United States, individuals fought back against legal loopholes that allowed interstate trade of ivory, and in 2016, President Obama signed an executive order effectively shutting down this trade. 

“What you’ve seen is a grassroots state-by-state push to close this legal loophole and recognize environmental crime as a true crime,” Brooks said. “There needs to be one strong concerted effort, in which we are no longer in a world in which there’s a need for ivory.”