When a documentary title is simply called Elephant Refugees, it’s easy to realise they have no place to call home and somewhere, humans are mistreating them. In respect to the latter, when Botswana banned elephant poaching in 2014, these gentle mammals knew there’s a haven to flock to and it’s perfectly documented. Their migration was unexpected, and it generated problems and provoked humanity to re-evaluate their accord with the gentle beast.
What’s studied in this documentary by Louise Hogarth goes beyond studying our rapport with this majestic fellow. The last work I reviewed was When Elephants Were Young, which concerned the latter–exploiting them for tourism and labour. With this latest, the focus is on how we can help them. But at what cost? When they proved to be a unexpected boon to a region that’s been opening up to eco-tourism, to move them away is required when they start devestating the area in search for water. In regards to the Moller family’s ironically named camp site and bush lodge, Elephant Sands, the pros and cons about keeping them around or sending them away need to be weighed.
One easy solution, if the myth is true, is to introduce mice into the habitat. They can decide for themselves if its worth sticking around to entertain the visitors. However, I feel that chasing them out is cruel. Where else can they go? This work is pleasant since it studies what we can do as humanitarians for them, not hunters.
Game of Thrones’s Jerome Flynn narrates this work, and the cameras act like a flies on the wall to chronicle the events as they unfold about why they arrived in this new country, and what the Moller family did to keep their business alive. Although they wanted the added influx to go away, the knew better. Just how they helped each herd is heartwarming. But before they started on their mission, they had to look at what was causing this mass migration. It turns out their previous watering holes dried up, and that’s due to climate change. It’s affecting the world everywhere, and nowhere is safe. To say Africa is the least affected is a lie. To have people renew the various old watersheds in hopes other animals will return to them, and renew the area is their goal.
However, there’s a looming threat. In 2019, the new Botswana government decided it’s time to allow their numbers to be pruned by reinstating hunting. It’s a tragedy to allow hunters to go killing them is an easy way to deal with the situation. Surely, there must be other ideas. As this work tracks the years of change, what’s happening now is hard to watch.
In light of recent developments, Hogarth made Elephant Refugees to make people aware of the latest issues. She also released a statement, “Elephants are extraordinarily emotional beings. They are conscious of themselves as individuals. They feel joy, experience sadness, pain, pleasure, and grief. They cry real tears and exhibit beautiful qualities of compassion and protection. Elephants need increased understanding and tolerance from us, and by deepening our connection with them and opening our hearts to them, we may eventually be able to return to a peaceful co-existence with them. These are truly gentle giants who simply want to be respected, honoured for who they are and left in peace.
One African elephant is killed every 15 minutes, which equals 40,000 a year. Africa’s total estimated elephant population is less than 400,000. If the killing continues; elephants will be extinct in 10 years. Together, we can and must attempt to save Africa’s elephants. I don’t want to live in a world without elephants.”
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5 Stars out of 5
Elephant Refugees Trailer