Endangered species like elephants, rhinos and lions march closer to extinction each year. Is monetising animals the only way to save them?
The devastating decline of Africa’s endangered specials is fuelled in part by a global desire to consume these majestic animals. This provocative – and objective – documentary investigates the powerhouse industries of big-game hunting, breeding and wildlife conservation through the eyes of impassioned individuals who drive them.
“If it pays, it stays”
From an American trophy hunter to the world’s largest rhino breeder in South Africa, Trophy grapples with the consequences of imposing economic value on animals. A common mantra of these businesses – “if it pays, it stays” – sums up the controversial notion that if you assign monetary value to an animal, it is worth protecting. It will leave you debating what is right, what is wrong and what is necessary in order to save the great species of the world.
What are the implications of treating animals as commodities? Do breeding, farming and hunting offer some of the few remaining options to conserve our endangered animals? In Trophy’s richly cinematic safari, anything is possible, and nothing is as you would expect.
The paradox of hunting to conserve
Philip Glass, a Texas-based sheep breeder and life-long hunter is on a quest to collect the “Big Five” (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhino). Philip is deeply connected to the land and animals. He spends days or weeks tracking animals in their natural environment before getting his kill. He considers himself a conservationist, and believes the dollars he spends hunting in Africa go back to local communities and help preserve the animals he covets for future generations.
This is an argument echoed in the work of Chris Moore, a Zimbabwean wildlife officer whose anti-poaching campaign is partially subsidized by big-game hunters like Philip.
Can humans truly play God with the lives of others?
Chris works with government authorities and communities to keep people safe from wild animals. He also protects those animals from ruthless poachers. The great irony of Chris’s work is that he goes to “extreme lengths” to protect endangered animals, only to have them killed by trophy hunters.
As Africa’s most iconic animals continue to vanish in droves, can the controversial practices of hunting and breeding actually help the numbers thrive? Can assigning a value to an animal possibly help conserve it? What gives humans the right to own animals and to decide whether they live or die? And is there any real future for a “natural” world in our rapidly developing, capitalist world?
Trophy is a richly cinematic safari, anything is possible, and nothing is as you would expect.
“In late 2013, I stumbled across a picture of a man posing over an elephant that he had just hunted. I flipped to the next photo where the hunter was smiling, proudly, while cutting off the elephant’s tail. The pictures outraged me. I was shocked.
My directing partner Christina pointed out to me that hunters, and their industry at large, claim to be a critical force of conservation. This idea seemed ludicrous. How could killing an animal possibly help to conserve it?
We hope audiences realize, as we did, that there are no easy answers to these questions. The heart and mind pull us in opposite directions. We hope Trophy becomes a first step bringing those oppositional forces together to ignite a healthy, informed debate on how to save these animals before they disappear.” – Shaul Schwarz
"I believe that people want to be part of the solution to conserve animals and delay their extinction. That itself, I think, will encourage a viewer to watch the film." – Christina Clusiau
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- Tags: Animals, Big Game Hunting, Cinema, Conservation, Documentary, Extinction, Hunting, Natural World, Wildlife