The Ivory Game: Elephants in Crisis

The Netflix Original documentary The Ivory Game directed by Richard Ladkani and Kief Davidson exposes the harsh brutality of Elephant poaching and its illegal ivory trade. The title sequence immediately grabs the viewer with the stunning views of the African landscape as well as jarring imagery of elephant tusks and facts about the elephant population of Africa. Reminding viewers that every 15 minutes an elephant is poached and killed. This epidemic has reached a crisis point with an estimated 15 years until elephants are extinct on the continent.

Over the last 5 years 150,000 elephants have been killed for ivory and the film doesn’t waste time throwing the viewer into the hunt for one of the most infamous poachers in Africa… Boniface aka Shetani who runs a large poaching syndicate throughout East and Southern Africa. His syndicate of poachers are estimated to have killed up to 10,000 elephants for ivory trade.

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Produced by Oscar winning-actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Paul Allen this riveting film pulls back the curtain on the operations of African poachers and their relationships with ivory dealers in China. It captures the stunning scenery of African landscapes and their elephants and features characters from Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia as well as their counterparts in China.

 

In China where there is still a legal market in ivory even if it is illegal in the rest of the world. This legal market deals with quantities monitored by government estimated at 5 tonnes every year. Sadly the demand is higher than that hence the use of legal licences to launder illegal ivory, the money made off one piece of ivory can easily reach $300,000 dollars on the legal market so one can only imagine illegal prices.

 

Craig Millar Head of Security at the Big Life Foundation (Kenya) explains, “Elephants cannot protect themselves against a concentrated effort to poach them, no matter what they do, firearms and poachers will win every time. So everything we do is aimed at helping those elephants fight back.”

The film was shot over 16 months and required the production team and their sources, journalists and rangers to work undercover and risk their lives. These front-line rangers and undercover operatives are the champions of the elephants and seek justice for the slaughtered as well as the protection of the remaining species. The film shows how they put themselves in life threatening situations infiltrating camps set up by poachers and the seedy underbelly of ivory trade in China and Hong Kong.

One of the proudest moments in the film is when we meet Zambia’s very own Georgina Kamanga the first female to lead the Intelligence and Investigations Unit at the Department of National Parks in Zambia. She is tasked to work closely with Elisifa Ngowi the man who has been tracking Shetani and believes that members of Shetani’s syndicate may be in Zambia. Without giving anything away all I can say is that she definitely proves herself worth of her position in the Investigations Unit.

This is the kind of film that needs a box of tissues as it stirs up emotions of sadness, anger and frustration that leave you wondering how human beings can be so cruel to this majestic creature!

 

 

Adventures in Addis

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Ethiopia is a beautiful country, filled with rich culture, food and traditions…in more recent years the capital city Addis Ababa has become the East African city that doesn’t sleep. I have travelled to Ethiopia both as a teenager where I saw a vast amount of the country travelling to the surrounding areas and once again in my early 20s. It is only in the last 5 years that I have heard from friends that Addis is the party capital, with clubs opening up all over the city and new restaurants and shisha bars (both Arabic and Ethiopian with belly dancers) the city has certainly become more vibrant and youthful.

Upon arrival at the Bole International Airport I was reminded of how the infrastructure has grown. It is now a quite expansive space that hosts many duty free stores and eateries as well as clothing stores. It is also one of the cleanest airports I have seen in a long while, travelling to Ethiopia is as easy as booking your flight. What you have to remember is that you need to apply for a visa stating why you want to come into the country, if all goes well you will receive a letter acknowledging your visit. At the airport you then stand in the line to pay for your Visa, this can cost you $50 or more depending on where you come from and how long you are staying. While the visa cue itself can be a tedious process if you arrive with the influx of travellers from all over the world.

You will find foreign owned places or eateries that offer western food however a lot of it has an Ethiopian flavour. I fell in love with the way that they operate because the importance is placed on their own tastes and their own foods. If you want pizza that tastes like dominos then you better go find a dominos! This made me wonder what Zambia would be like if it wasn’t infused with South African and Western influence, what would our eateries be like? (I don’t mean the Nshima places!) There isn’t a place you go to where you can’t order the traditional food Injera and its accompaniments.

On my third day in Addis I went to a new live music/club venue called Jollys for a friends 29th birthday. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was warned that it was a really cool place for all the hip and happening people. We sat in the VIP area next to the bar and took in all the décor in the venue. Now Jollys is a collision of different styles and aesthetics, on the one hand there are some really nice chandeliers and a beautiful Cupids arrow gold statue. On the other hand the outside has a disco ball above the entrance and fake cherry blossom trees that light up in the deepest purple colour. The bathroom also has some highly entertaining signage such as “ Wanted: Nude dancers for Friday Nights- must have neat appearance and perform with dignity and modesty.” Needless to say this is the kind of humour that was lost when I shared the photo on my Instagram, I mean how would one be nude but perform with modesty???

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The drinks can range from the cheap side to the more expensive when you start ordering champagne (sold by the bottle only) and expensive whiskies. Fortunately we were a group of about 15-20 and we were buying by the bottle and had even brought in our own champagne and paid corkage. It is important to note that although the staff is conversant in English they can obviously spot tourists right away and may take advantage. We had an incident where a few glasses broke and we were charged 400 bir per glass…which we disputed with the help of one of our Ethiopian hosts. I mean when have you ever paid for broken glass in a club? They expect incidents, as everyone is intoxicated and already paying to be there.

We watched a performance from an Ethiopian singer Zewdy, who is quite popular on Youtube. The music was lovely and I appreciated that I was getting a unique experience rarely found in Zambia in that I had lounge-live music and then club music after. They sang a blend of songs in the local language Ahmaric and some English covers of popular songs. As most places do Jollys has a small outdoor bar (remember the key to infrastructure here is to build up as everything is right next to each other and there isn’t much space). The bartender outside was quite lovely and was more than happy to keep my tequila coming while recommending places to see during my stay.

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Bob Marley statue!

My favorite part of tourist activities was going to the National Museum and getting to see Dinknesh aka Lucy, the oldest skeleton of an early human ancestor discovered in 1974 and 3.2 million years old.  Lucy measures just above 1m, I posed with her 3D skeletal model and took pictures of the bones they found. I also got to see Selam – the skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis child thought to have died aged three and dubbed ‘Lucy’s baby’.

 

 

I also go to see the Imperial Crowns of Yohannes IV, Menelik II, Taitu Bitul, and Haile Selassie! Oh my were they beautiful, I wanted to try them on or take a jewel or two. Yes, yes I have watched too many heist movies! Lol

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