WARNING: video contains scenes that may disturb some viewers (but, then again, that’s the point!)
Hollywood director Kathryn Bigelow has never been one to shy away from a difficult subject. However, now the Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker director is looking to a conflict of a different kind: the illegal ivory trade and its devastating effects on the African elephant population. In an unflinching animated short that tracks the path of a coveted ivory adornment in reverse, Bigelow drives home the demonstrated connection between the ivory trade and the terrorist organizations that profit from it. Bigelow takes the view that since gut-wrenching images of slaughtered elephants don’t seem to be slowing demand for ivory, getting ivory purchasers to understand that they are funding terrorism will hopefully be more of a deterrent.
An elephant is killed for its tusks on average every 15 minutes. Despite major efforts to halt the illegal ivory trade, if anything the killing seems to be increasing. Bigelow explained to Variety why she was motivated to make Last Days as a short film rather than in her usual feature milieu: “To make a feature film about such a topic would likely take years during which more elephants would die, so instead I approached a team of fellow filmmakers and we made ‘Last Days’ as an animated piece, which we thought would give it a broader audience (besides, the internet is filled with graphic images of slaughtered elephants and yet the killing continues.) There are real things we can all do to stop wild elephants from disappearing from our world while cutting off funding for some of the world’s most notorious terrorist networks.”
The animation includes chilling footage from the 2013 Westgate Mall massacre in Niarobi, for which terror group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility. Al-Shabaab is estimated to earn around $600,000 a month from the illegal trade in ivory. Other groups such as Boko Haram and the Lord’s Resistance Army have also been linked to poaching and illegal wildlife trade. The illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest illicit global trade after narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking. Yes, it’s even worse than arms dealing!
Of her motivation to make the film, Bigelow notes the death of an elephant every 15 minutes statistic and says, “It is our hope that this film helps to bring an activist into existence at least that often.” For more information on how you can help the fight against the illegal ivory trade, please visit the Last Days of Ivory website.