The African elephant is a magnificent creature, but its time on earth is rapidly coming to an end. The African elephant population has decreased by more than 60 percent over the past decade. Just in the past three years, ivory-seeking poachers have killed more than 100,000 elephants. If the slaughter continues at this pace, the African elephant will be extinct in 11 years! These may well be the last days for the African elephant.
This is the powerful message that Oscar award winning director Kathryn
Bigelow drives home in her important animated short film entitled "Last
Days." The film premiered Saturday night at the New York Film Festival.
Following the screening Bigelow told the audience, "The urgency is
great, time is of the essence."
"Last Days" reveals that the
proceeds from much of the poaching goes to fund terrorist organizations,
like the Somalia based al-Shabaab. One year ago, al-Shabaab struck the
Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, brutally massacring 67 men, women and
children. Thie Westgate tragedy is the starting point for this
compelling film, which then tells the poaching story in reverse.
makes millions of dollars from poaching, and lightly armed park police
cannot stop the heavily armed poachers. Journalist Peter Godwin, who
appeared in the post screening panel discussion, described poaching as
"an extension of war." Godwin, who was born in central Africa, said
that there were 100,000 elephants in southern Tanzania during the early
1970's, now there are only 13,000. Poachers not only shoot elephants,
which are easy targets because they are communal, they also lace
watering holes with arsenic. Godwin said, "We are rushing toward the
Focus in this great tragedy is now shifting to
curtailing demand. China is a huge importer of ivory, and its demand
has increased along with its growing wealth. Peter Knights, the
executive director of WildAid, has enlisted the aid of Yao Ming, the
ex-NBA player, and CCTV, the government run television network, to
spread awareness in China. CCTV has agreed to run "Last Days." Earlier
efforts by conservationists to cut demand for shark fin soup in China,
which has been popular there since the Ming dynasty, have worked.
is also popular in the United States, and the New York City borough of
Manhattan is the second largest market in the country. But federal and
state laws are not stringent enough to significantly impact the thriving
ivory trade in Manhattan, which finds much of its ivory exported to
Bigelow hopes that the release of "Last Days"
in the United States, on the web and on television, will increase
awareness of this urgent problem. She hopes to reach both consumers
and politicians. Bigelow told the audience that her interest in the
subject was the result of a conversation with Hillary and Chelsea
Clinton. "Chelsea had just returned from sub-Saharan Africa, where
poachers killed herds of elephants by cyanide poisoning," Ms. Bigelow
said. "After our conversation I felt compelled to raise awareness."
As Peter Knights observed, "This is not about facts, this is about
emotion." If that is the case, Bigelow's "Last Days" will send a
powerful message across the globe that will extend the life of the
African elephant on earth.