Elephant appeal: Photojournalist Kate Brooks documents the dangerous demise of these giants of the wild

As a photojournalist, Kate Brooks was used to documenting war zones. Then she discovered a new kind of genocide – the killing of Africa’s elephants

I am a conflict photographer. At the age of 23, I packed my bags and moved to Pakistan in the weeks after 9/11 so that I could dedicate myself to documenting the war in Afghanistan and the impact of US foreign policy in the region. Over the decade that followed, I traversed the Middle East, covering the impact of war on civilian populations, and at times, military operations.

In 2010, after embedding with a 'medevac' unit at Kandahar Airfield, I went to Kenya on a long-planned vacation. It was in the Maasai Mara, among the majestic beauty and grandeur of vast open spaces and magnificent creatures, that I was able to find peace and solace, and heal from the inhumanity I had witnessed: countless troops and Afghan civilians having their limbs blown off by IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices] and Afghan children working on farms being errantly bombed and killed by coalition forces. I left Kenya determined to photograph wildlife in the future.

Little did I know at the time, genocide was brewing across the continent. > Over the past few years, the slaughter of African elephants and rhinoceros has skyrocketed to supply international markets with their tusks and horns. Some experts say 35,000 elephants are being killed per year, others believe the number is as high as 50,000.

At any rate, over 60 per cent of Africa's forest elephants have died and elephant populations are vanishing from the Earth at an alarming rate. We are at a critical moment in natural history, because Africa's elephants are dying in such an unnatural way. It's hard to fathom, but wildlife, as we know it, is ceasing to exist due to the commoditisation of wildlife, the value of rhino horn and ivory and the insatiable demand by China.

Wildlife products are used in the fashion industry, in the art world, for alternative medicine and collected for pure vanity and in the most perverse ways. Recently, the US Government crushed six tons of stockpiled illegal ivory in Denver as a statement against poaching and wildlife trafficking. The US differentiates between illegal and legal ivory, still allowing a market for the latter. Conservationists argue the legalised trade creates loopholes for the illegal trade and are pushing for a total moratorium on the ivory trade in the United States.

 

At the National Wildlife Property Repository, I saw rows of seized tiger heads, rhino-foot ashtrays and countless tusks carved with bush scenes immortalising nature while brutally destroying its very existence by commoditising elephant parts for carvings.

The action that the international community takes now will determine what populations survive and what can be preserved. We've entered an age in which drones are being used to monitor wildlife populations and deter poachers.

Entire animal species are being microchipped. Electric fences and armed rangers are not enough to stop poachers and many people are dying in the process of trying to protect these animals. It's hard for me to imagine the future of wildlife, 20 years from now.

I spent the past year as a fellow at the University of Michigan researching poaching. I saw stories trickling in about the surge in elephant massacres and have since started work on a documentary film called The Last Animals.

For me this is more than a project, this is a cause. I intend to use my eyes, heart and journalism skills to bring as much attention to this critical issue as possible. I document conflicts. Make no mistake. This is a conflict, too.

Thelastanimals.com

Click here to donate to our elephant appeal

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat