A Call to Action at Washington DC's Environmental Film Festival
13 April 2015
Over the past two weeks, I had the pleasure of attending the DC Environmental Film Festival on behalf of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge. The festival is a highlight of the annual calendar of green events in Washington, DC, and this year, it focused on the worsening environmental situation across the planet.
Six films were dedicated solely to communicating the consequences of wildlife trafficking not only for numerous species but also for humans. The Festival also offered an excellent opportunity to publicize the Challenge to a range of audiences engaged in wildlife and environmental conservation.
One film, Gambling on Extinction, offered viewers a glimpse of the actors that are driving the illegal wildlife trade around the world, from militant groups and organized crime cartels to investors and poachers. A discussion with representatives from IFAW and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) followed, which helped to further educate the audience about the issue.
Another film, Gardeners of Eden, managed to be both poignant and optimistic. The title is a reference to elephants and the key role they play in dispersing seeds across vast tracts of savannah and forest, and also in balancing delicate ecosystems. Gardeners of Eden highlighted the work of Kenya’s David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which for decades has been engaged in anti-poaching activities as well as rescuing orphaned elephants to rehabilitate and re-introduce them back into the wild. Sex and the City actress Kristin Davis, who produced the film, is a longtime patron of the Trust and led a panel discussion following the film’s screening. I had an opportunity to share with her information on the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge.
The Festival concluded with the much-anticipated Washington, DC premiere of Racing Extinction, by Oscar-winning filmmaker Louie Psihoyos. Mr. Psihoyos and his team went undercover to expose the hidden and not-so hidden world of wildlife trafficking, but also focused on potential solutions, including the development of alternative livelihoods to poaching and trafficking. Through education and partnerships, village communities in Lamakera, Indonesia successfully transitioned from fishing manta rays to ecotourism and other sustainable activities that safeguard the mantas. The statistics are ominous, but Racing Extinction ended on a powerful positive note: it is not too late; we can raise awareness and combat the problem of wildlife trafficking.
The Festival featured other films on wildlife trafficking that I did not manage to see, including 50 Days to Save the African Rhino and Tiger Tiger. If you attended and received one of the Challenge postcards or business cards and have already signed up for the newsletter, help spread the word; the competition opens soon. If not, please sign up. Also, if you have a great science or technology-based solution that might be useful in combating wildlife trafficking, please apply.
Lastly, if you missed the festival, many of the films featured there can be viewed for free online
Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge Assistant