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The Ivory Game (2016)

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Wildlife activists in take on poachers in an effort to end illegal ivory trade in Africa.
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Wildlife activists in take on poachers in an effort to end illegal ivory trade in Africa.

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The Hunt for the Hunter Begins

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4 November 2016 (USA)  »

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Elfenben: Det vita guldet  »

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The twenty-ninth Netflix original documentary. See more »

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Elephants as commodity

First of all, this is a very well made documentary and you can notice that from the first shot. Directors Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani have done a really great job in putting the pieces of ivory trade together in a very comprehensible narrative that exposes the whole circle of the game.

We get to know the whole infrastructure behind it, from local killers working for local dealers, to foreign dealers and (usually Chinese) wealthy buyers. The cinematography of it is breathtaking as we are taken to visit the natural habitat of Elephants in South East Africa and meet the people who try to protect them against all odds and overwhelmingly lack of resources. We get to know the enthusiastic wildlife conservationists working in Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and get to know their motivation for fighting poachers and the whole illegal network. We get to know the man behind Wildleaks - an organization that leak the information about that network and we go undercover with them to meetings with dealers in China.

The whole documentary feels like a first class thriller with chase footage of the poachers and undercover agents risking their lives to expose the wide network, except this one is a reality.

Although one small minus for me was that not enough (in my opinion) was said about how complex,intelligent and emotional animals Elephants are. I mean they can paint, they visit spots where their members were killed or died and mourn the dead bones together, which we could consider as a form of ritual. They are able to use tools (although on lower level than chimps). Together with dolphins and apes they exhibit forms of self-recognition and they have an excellent memory.

Although elephants also cause some problems to people, especially in Asia where urbanization and human population claimed a lot of their natural habitats, the massive genocide of elephants for their ivory is a sign of something much larger than just ivory black market. It's a sign of expansion of human destructive relationship to our natural environment. We don't respect the nature as is documented by the global warming, and we don't give a sh*t about animals as they're mostly seen only as a necessary decoration of ever-shrinking wild nature.

I think this is a symbol of our addiction to power. We want to prove ourselves that we are the Gods and rulers of this planet and due to that addiction we are about to see some nasty results of that urge. Like there will be no elephants on the planet in few decades to come and more and more wild life territories will be sacrificed, so we will only know about the diversity of life from the history books. What kind of psychological effect will that have on future generation we can only speculate.


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