From photojournalist and war photographer Kate Brooks, The Last Animals is a tragic portrait of the current state of the Earth’s endangered rhinos and elephant population at the hands of an unscrupulous trade in rhino horn and ivory. 

Kate Brooks is used to covering conflict. Her photographs span conflicts in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Russia, to name but a few. Having travelled to Africa in pursuit of a story about terrorism linked to the ivory trade, she was diverted by the plight of African rhinos and elephants at the hands of poachers, traffickers and those attempting to make a profit from the commodification of the animals.

Following an extensive Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to get the film made, Brooks documents the work carried out by tireless conservationists, rangers, animal surgeons and scientists, her camera is turned to the ongoing effort to protect the dwindling populations of Northern White Rhinoceros (there is just one male left on the planet).

Chad - once home to thousands of elephants - now only has an estimated 1,000 spread across the country. Outside of Zakouma National Park that hosts 450, the other herds are scattered in pockets. The herd of elephants living around Lake Chad are unique to the Sahel; they inhabit the desert, moving between water sources on Lake Chad. There are an estimated 1,000 elephants remaining in the country. Photo: Kate Brooks.

Chad – once home to thousands of elephants – now only has an estimated 1,000 spread across the country. Outside of Zakouma National Park that hosts 450, the other herds are scattered in pockets. The herd of elephants living around Lake Chad are unique to the Sahel; they inhabit the desert, moving between water sources on Lake Chad. There are an estimated 1,000 elephants remaining in the country. Photo: Kate Brooks.

People clearly care about the animals; when Nabire died in the Czech Republic in 2015 having been born there in 1983, the zoo that she called home was flooded with messages of love and support, and pleas that the four remaining Northern Whites should be protected and encouraged by every means possible to breed. Without those measures, there’s every possibility that the next generation could grow up in a world in which Northern White Rhinos are extinct.

Brooks’ film is quietly sobering, her voiceover revealing the deeply personal connection to the cause the photographer clearly feels. One of the most sobering points in the film comes with the burning of stock piles of ivory, to prevent it from being illegally traded on the black market.

The Last Animals- Finalist Trailer from Jackson Hole WILD on Vimeo.

With rhino horn selling for more than gold, in demand for its alleged healing powers in Vietnam and China, and ivory in demand by those wishing to adorn their mantelpiece or wrist with a slab of the rare material, it’s a tough trade to eliminate. ‘One off’ sales are touted by Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa in order to allegedly put an end to the trade, a practice that Brooks argues would merely sustain it.

Poachers are everywhere, and conflicts between them, border security and those trying to protect the animals, often end in tragedy. This year, two wildlife rangers were killed during a shoot-out with poachers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Garamba National Park.

 

Three of the last seven Northern White rhinos left in the world follow the Kenya Police Reserve who protect them, as they head out on their daily evening patrol. Photo: Kate Brooks.

Three of the last seven Northern White rhinos left in the world follow the Kenya Police Reserve who protect them, as they head out on their daily evening patrol. Photo: Kate Brooks.

Of course it’s the animal tragedy that is the focus of the film, and Brooks stunning eye for a good shot is complimented immeasurably by her ability to translate facts and figures into what feels like a very personal, individual message. Her film ends with a plea, a call to arms that asks the viewer to demand that their government ban the trade of ivory and rhino horn that accounts for the deaths of 20,000 elephants each year, and 5,000 rhinos were slaughtered during the making of Brooks’ film alone.

Her message is simple; without action to protect those with whom we share the planet, humans will become the last animals to live on it.

★★★★☆

The Last Animals is screening at the Bertha Dochouse from 8th November following Kenyan climate change documentary, Thank You For The Rain, and trophy hunting expose, Trophy