Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads


#SteveReviews: The Ivory Game

With the ongoing lockdown, I’ve had more time to sit down and watch more nature documentaries in Netflix. One of those is The Ivory Game which focusses on the illegal ivory trade between Africa and China. Now this isn’t new problem as most people can probably tell you but it does help illuminate the issue and highlight the urgency in stopping the illegal poaching and trading of elephants. As someone who has been to Africa to see elephants (an experience I will never forget), I learnt first-hand just how tough this issue is. It is a scary reality when the largest terrestrial vertebrate is at risk of extinction because they are worth more dead than they are alive.

Elephants, where they belong. Photographed at the Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Organised criminal gangs poach the elephants before trading the ivory to China via Vietnam, as highlighted in The Ivory Game. This is a major threat to elephant conservation and one I think most people believed we solved decades ago. However the contrary is true. As elephants get rarer, the price of their ivory soars. With a drop in public support, this documentary film is well timed. Slash even released a song in 2014 titled Beneath the Savage Sun to raise awareness of the issue with proceeds going towards anti-poaching efforts. The Ivory Game helps to further draw the further need for elephant conservation with it’s moving scenes and story.

An elephant skull on display in the car park to Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

One of the drivers of the illegal trade was the once legal legitimate trade in China of ivory, aimed at trading ivory within China. However, this just led to corruption and traffickers smuggling tusks for sale on the black market all whilst seeming like a legitimate business. At the time of filming, only one person held the responsibility for determining the fate of the world’s elephants: the president of China. Using a number of undercover techniques (such as those also seen in Racing Extinction), the team were able to uncover the illegal smuggling and trading rings that pose a threat to the survival of elephants in Africa.

Where ivory belongs, on a living elephant at Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

The film is moving in parts and there are some graphic images of butchered elephants so be warned. There are scenes of police officers on the ground in Tanzania and Zambia tracking poachers and traffickers, trying to prevent the damage being done within their borders. Despite the fact that The Ivory Game tackles a very challenging topic, it does provide some hope perhaps some hope for the future. I hope that in a couple of decades, people from around the world are able to travel to Africa (responsibly) and see elephants and the other fauna in their natural habitat.

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