Review: The Ivory Game

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By Joanna Shaw

As the rangers silently search through the dense African bush, they stumble upon a gruesome sight: dead elephants, a whole family of them, their bodies brutally mutilated and executed. The reason for the killing? So that an evil dealer can exploit desperate villagers, and a wealthy Chinese businessman can own an ivory carving worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is the reality that the African elephant population faces, and this is the truth that Netflix’s new documentary The Ivory Game attempts to expose.

This documentary couldn’t have come at a better time. Last month, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) hosted an international meeting with world leaders to urge them to stop the trade of all ivory to China, as it is the biggest buyer of ivory in the world. It may come as a shock to most, that ivory that was collected before 1989 is still legal to be traded in many places of the world. But the traders use this law to their advantage, as they simply use illegal ivory to keep their stock levels up.

This documentary follows a few different issues related to the killing of elephants. From rangers risking their lives to save elephants from being brutally murdered by poachers, one man’s mission to stop a rich dealer known as Shetani (or “devil man.”) and a Chinese activist using his race to his advantage in order to uncover the huge trade deals happening under the governments noses. As he states, “They never suspect that a Chinese man can be on the right side.”

It is crucial that this documentary is viewed and shared, as an elephant is now killed for their ivory every fifteen minutes. At the halfway point of the documentary, the rangers are given the heartbreaking news that Africa’s most famous elephant, a bull named Satao, with tusks that were up to nearly two metres long, was shot with a poisoned arrow and butchered for his tusks.

It is not just the elephants that are suffering, as the poor villagers that have their crops destroyed by elephants are more likely to turn to poaching in a desperate attempt to preserve their precious crops. Traders are more likely to prey on poorer communities, as they send them out to kill the elephants, and give them 6% of the profits. The traders walk away with 94%, and a tusk worth up to $30,000.

Since The Ivory Game was endorsed by famous faces such as actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio and Microsoft’s Paul Allen, the message of this documentary is simple: the exploitation of the poorer areas of Africa, the slaughter of elephants, and the trade of ALL ivory for financial and material gain must stop.

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Joanna Shaw

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