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The Last Animals: A documentary film by Kate Brooks about Africa's poaching epidemic. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on January 2, 2014.

The Last Animals: A documentary film by Kate Brooks about Africa's poaching epidemic.

About this project

Six months ago I began filming The Last Animals. Your contributions will enable me to continue working on the project. The funds will also help with the editing costs. Thank you for your support! - Kate Brooks

The Last Animals 

Over the past two years, the slaughter of African elephants and rhinoceros has skyrocketed to supply international markets with their tusks and horns. Ivory has been dubbed the white gold of jihad and rhino horn now has a higher market value than cocaine and gold. With the expansion of radical Islamist and independent militias in Africa, along with criminal syndicates, the daring groups carrying out these bloody “harvests” are killing these animals at unprecedented rates.

Rangers inspect an elephant carcass in the Masai Mara.
Rangers inspect an elephant carcass in the Masai Mara.

In November of last year, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a formal statement highlighting the crucial links between wildlife trade, terrorism and the security of international borders. Since then, the Clinton Foundation has launched an 80 million dollar initiative to combat wildlife trafficking and President Obama has issued an executive order to tackle one of the largest illicit trades in the world. 

Trinkets and jewelry made from ivory.
Trinkets and jewelry made from ivory.

The postcolonial chapter in international wildlife conservation efforts, which focused on establishing parks and protected areas, and appeasing the economic and developmental needs of local and regional communities, has not been enough to stop poaching. 

Since the early 2000s, the integrity of national boundaries, the interest of more widely varied international stakeholders including Asian and South Asian countries, and the interpellation of rural populations living in wildlife-rich areas by non state actors may all come to define an era in which the protection of ecosystems and wildlife revolve around appeals to national, regional, and international security within a war on terror world.

This project will hone the recent epidemic of highly effective poaching, documenting not only the ways that animals are killed, and within what conservation contexts these losses are incurred, but also how their body parts circulate as commodities within both legal and illegal trade networks. 

The dilemmas of contemporary conservation are profoundly transnational, and vary importantly from site to site, but collectively reflect the end of the wild populations of valuable species. That turning point in the environmental history of human-animal relationships is what I seek to capture in this film during the age of the drone.

The pivotal part of the story unfolds in Kenya, where there is one of the most developed complexes of expert knowledge and engagement with wildlife anywhere in the world. 

The Kenyan Police Reserve head out on evening patrol.
The Kenyan Police Reserve head out on evening patrol.

The Last Animals, derived from the Latin term anima, evoking air, breath, life force, is the working title of the documentary film for which I am requesting funding. I will approach the narration of the current poaching epidemic as an environmental and human conflict with the focus on elephants and rhinos being the victims of a kind of economic and technological epidemic. Contrasting the beauty of what still exists, alongside the stories of those fighting a battle to protect those elephant and rhino populations that still remain, the film will address the 10-20 year trajectory of these species in Africa.

Director/Cinematographer

Kate Brooks is an award-winning international photojournalist and cinematographer, who has been chronicling conflict and human rights issues for nearly two decades. She has worked extensively in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and across the Middle East, dedicating herself to covering the post 9/11 decade and the beginning of the Arab Spring. Her photographs have been published in TIME, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Smithsonian, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Foreign Policy and The Washington Post. She also regularly exhibits her work in national museums and international galleries. 

In 2010 Kate worked as a contributing cinematographer on the multiple award-winning documentary The Boxing Girls of Kabul. Her introspective collection of essays and photos In the Light of Darkness: A Photographer’s Journey After 9/11 was selected by PDN as one of 2011’s best photography books. She then received a 2012-13 Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan, where she researched poaching for the documentary film The Last Animals. Rebecca Hardin was her fellowship advisor. 

Project Researcher

Rebecca Hardin’s PhD is in anthropology from Yale University; she has taught at Yale, McGill University, the Sorbonne and the University of Michigan. She has also been a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral scholar at Yale’s Center for International and Area Studies, and an Academy Scholar of International and Area Studies at Harvard University. Her research blends ecological methods for the study of wildlife with ethnography of human resource use, including historical anthropology and political ecology approaches. 

Rebecca lived for six years in the Central African Republic, and speaks three of that country’s languages, in addition to fluent French.  She has completed field projects spanning several years in both South Africa and Kenya. In her capacity as Board Member of the independent documentary film production company Interlock Media, she has raised money for, edited treatments for, and obtained/reviewed archival footage for several human rights and/or conservation related films.

Footage

Other than the following exceptions, all of the footage and stills were shot by Kate with the assistance of veteran news producer John Fiegener: 

The undercover footage used in this Kickstarter project was kindly provided by Karl Amman.

Save the Elephants & The Mara Elephant Project provided some of the archival photographs of mutilated elephant carcasses that are seen as flashing images.

Risks and challenges

The biggest obstacle of this project is funding. Having already spent an extensive amount of time in production, I am aware that shoots frequently get postponed and that many aspects of this film can not be done on a set schedule. With your help, I will be able to spend the time necessary and have a dedicated editor to edit my film footage.

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Funding period

- (51 days)