Everyone, it seems, loves elephants. A new film titled Illicit Ivory premiered last week on KCET in Southern California and elsewhere. You can watch it online at KCET.org/ivory. The trailer is at LinkTV.org/ivory.
It’s an upsetting film. The good news? There is a groundswell of effort that is beginning to work to slow the ivory trade. It can be done; we can save the elephants. The more we understand, the faster each of us can help it happen.
So why watch a tough film? Must we subject ourselves to the knowledge that every 20 minutes, an elephant is killed for its tusks? How does it help us — indeed how does it help elephants — for us to know that the slaughter is driven by ignorance, greed, and an insatiable demand for ivory? Why see such disturbing images?
I interviewed the film’s producer Raisa Scriabine, to ask her some hard questions: how does it help for people who love elephants and would never buy ivory to watch an unpleasant and disturbing film about an issue that is perhaps the world’s worst animal nightmare? Here is our conversation.
CS: What are the most important facts in this program?
Raisa Scriabine: Wildlife crime is the 4th largest transnational criminal activity – next to trafficking guns, drugs and people. Illicit ivory, a burgeoning and highly lucrative business bringing in about a billion dollars a year, is a large part of it. Some of the world’s worst and most dangerous actors are involved. Raking in the biggest profits are Asian criminal syndicates. The illicit ivory trade puts guns and ammunition into the hands of terrorists like Somalia’s Al Shabab; insurgents like Uganda’s Joseph Kony who is wanted for crimes against humanity, and militias like the Janjaweed, affiliated with the government of Sudan and behind the genocide in Darfur. Illicit ivory destabilizes and militarizes already fragile and failing states in Africa – in a region where Islamic militancy is rapidly growing. It is an issue of national and global security.