Elephants are one of the most amazing animals on earth, yet unless we get together to help protect them, they could become extinct. Because of us. We all have the power to make a difference and, when we take action, we can have lasting impact. That’s why “The Ivory Game,” from directors Richard Ladkani and Kief Davidson is such an important documentary — it can make all the difference for the elephants and for future generations.
I’ve spent my life first working with chimpanzees and then raising awareness about the importance of conserving the natural world. I have come to realize how each and every one of us makes an impact on the planet every day and that we have a choice as to what kind of difference we will make. I have seen how, when people come together around a cause, huge change can happen. I’ve also learned that successful conservation isn’t merely about protecting one species or cleaning up a single part of the environment; rather, we need to take a holistic approach, realizing that everything is interconnected. “The Ivory Game” examines why elephants are being slaughtered for their tusks — because of the value of ivory. But the story describes a complex socioeconomic system that, unless we can change it, will lead to the extinction of these amazing beings. It is indeed a complicated situation but “The Ivory Game” explains how each of us can take action to right this wrong.
“The Ivory Game” goes deep into the political, environmental and regulatory drivers behind the illegal ivory trade, taking us through a labyrinth of back-room dealings and covert operations, unfolding like a thriller. As the filmmakers head into increasingly dangerous situations to tell the story, the details reveal that the real fight can’t be on just one front. It starts on the ground, with the courage of the rangers fighting the poachers, but it extends to the halls of power. We need the U.S. to continue to uphold its federal ban on ivory, and encourage ivory bans at the state level (only four states have banned ivory in the U.S., and trophy hunting, shockingly, is still legal across the country). The U.S. and China are the two biggest markets and, given their role on the world stage, they have the power to lead the way for all countries to adopt a ban. This is about survival, not politics, as experts estimate elephants will be extinct in 15 years if we don’t act.
And we must not only put a stop to the slaughter of elephants, but also to the tragic loss of life among the rangers as they struggle to protect elephants and other endangered species. They work with few resources and inadequate equipment. More than 100 die every year, many killed by commercial poachers who fuel the ivory trade, others by armed militias who often use poached ivory to fund their wars. This is yet another reason why ending the ivory trade is so important.
Many people involved in the making of “The Ivory Game” put their lives at risk to tell this powerful and important story. It has all of the tension and excitement of an action movie but, sadly, the action in this documentary is altogether real. It shows, graphically, the hard truth about what is happening to elephants on the African continent. It is beautifully shot with overhead scenes showing the magnificence of elephants existing in the wild in contrast to stark, unflinching shots revealing the aftermath of poaching.
Like every great story, “The Ivory Game” has heroes and villains whose motives are at odds. But the outcome — whether good or evil will triumph — is up to us.
We have the power to determine the ending, and this documentary inspires us to do everything we can. In this spirit, I ask each of you to stand with me to call for an immediate, global ban on ivory.
Helmer Kief Davidson’s documentaries have won awards at the Intl. Documentary Festival Amsterdam, Silver Docs, and AFI. His latest, “The Ivory Game,” is in the current awards season conversation and Jane Goodall, world-renowned British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and U.N. Messenger of Peace, explains the urgency and importance of the film’s conservation subject and message. The IDFA runs Nov. 16-27. .