Conservation in Action is the multi-part blog series highlighting various projects in Africa, blending responsible tourism with community development and environmental conservation. Stay tuned as we travel across the continent to spotlight incredible tourism companies who are working to preserve some of the world’s most treasured ecosystems and produce the future generations of environmental stewards.
Part 1: Soul of the Elephant – A Film by Derek and Beverly Joubert
How can documentary films, such as Soul of the Elephant, be used as instruments of change? This was the topic of discussion that filmmakers, Derek and Beverly Joubert, addressed during their discussion panel at the Sundance Film Festival held in January.
As honorary Botswana citizens and National Geographic Explorers-in-residence, they have spent decades using the medium of filmmaking and photography as a podium to speak about conservation. With the escalating level of emergency, they have focused on Africa’s elephants and rhinos (every 9 hours a rhino is killed in South Africa and 45 elephants across Africa Source: Great Plains Foundation). Their safari company, Great Plains Conservation, in partnership with fellow safari company &Beyond and Africa Foundation, have translocated nearly 100 rhinos through Rhinos Without Borders into the safekeeping of Botswana from South Africa where tumultuous poaching and corruption have resulted in a massacre of rhinos in recent years. All through the month of November, they were sharing video footage on their Facebook page of what it takes to move a rhino.
Their overall goal is to eliminate demand entirely. Similar to the campaign slogan of Wild Aid: “When the buying stops, the killing can too.” This is no small feat when killing demand requires changing perceptions of billions of people in a market as strong as the illegal drug and weapon trades.
“’With this platform, we can have real and important conversations,’ they said of the power of the visual medium, calling their films ‘campaigns without pause…[If you] deliver a message with dignity, you can get there,’ they said with hope, noting that young people specifically do not desire to be part of the problem, but rather the solution. Currently at a tipping point in history, the Jouberts assert that ‘things can go very bad OR we can change things.'” Source: Fusion.net
The film, Soul of the Elephant, journeys through Kenya and Botswana, featuring stunning footage of their private concession areas as viewers bear witness to the incredible social behaviors and connections of elephants. If viewers can gain a new appreciation for elephants, if they can feel more connected to some distant land, if a compassion for these magnificent creatures emerges, then perhaps we have a shot at saving this keystone species and the ecosystems that it helps to balance.
The for-profit Great Plains Conservation has the separate Great Plains Foundation, which was established for the sole purpose of working towards conserving Africa’s fragile ecosystems. With over 1 million acres of private land, the tourism approach ensures a sustainable stewardship where wildlife can be monitored and visitor volume can be managed. This is not a new or unique concept, but a powerful one nonetheless. It is a concept that embodies so much of what the safari industry must do. Whether we support conservation for our love of nature and passion for Africa or out of a self-serving interest to secure the future of the industry, the end result is the same when we support companies that go to such lengths to fight for the wildlife. And, of course, as we have seen from years when tourism volume was low, the presence of the tourism industry is one of the greatest weapons to protect Africa’s wildlife.
Don’t miss the Joubert’s interview with Ellen Degeneres on the Ellen Show Monday, February 1, 2016, discussing their latest film, Soul of the Elephant. Watch the full program from PBS Nature Below:
Great Plains Conservation Camps
Mara Toto Camp (closed until further notice due to flash flooding)
Stay tuned to learn more about featured projects and conservation initiatives that you can support on your next trip to Africa!