Photojournalist Kate Brooks makes her directorial debut with “The Last Animals,” a devastating documentary revealing the illegal and large scale ivory and rhino horn trade originating in Africa. It’s a heart-wrenching film, difficult to watch at times, but eye-opening so that perhaps in some small way we can all make an effort to help save these now-endangered animals.
“The Last Animals” takes us on safari to meet park rangers and those who volunteer to train these rather unprepared soldiers charged with protecting the elephants and rhinos from poachers. Fallen co-workers is a common occurrence with the price of these animals’ tusks and horns seemingly worth more than gold…and apparently human life. According to Brooks’ website, “Ivory has been dubbed the white gold of jihad and rhino horn now has a higher market value than cocaine. 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.” And the Pejeta Conservancy reports that there are only 3 Northern White Rhinos left in the world!
Brooks also takes us to Asian markets who sell the ground matter to “cure” all types of ailments. And even more disturbing is the fact that the United States is one of the largest markets which in essence supports and drives this illegal trade. With all of this devastation, Brooks counters this with images of and information about sanctuaries and zoos, both helping to regenerate the population of these endangered animals.
The film, through interviews with rangers and scientists, allows us to gain a significant amount of knowledge to quickly understand these animals and the daunting task ahead of ill-prepared rangers. We hear the fears from these men whose sole purpose is to protect the gentle giants and the sense of loss they encounter on a daily basis. But what is most striking is the visual imagery that is seared into your memory. Piles and piles of rhino horns immediately equate to the tens of thousands of actual animals slaughtered. It’s a difficult film to watch, particularly for anyone who loves animals and appreciates these large, graceful mammals’ intelligence. Brooks’ capable direction allows the story to unfold using this combination of memorable cinematography and emotional interviews. This, in turn, makes “The Last Animals” a brilliantly powerful and impactful documentary.
“The Last Animals” tells a disturbing yet necessary story about two vital animals and their relevance in our world. The knowledge we gain from this film enables us to have the power to change what’s happening. We can make a difference in our world, but first we need to open our eyes and understand the extent of the situation. “The Last Animals” is just the eye-opening film we need.