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Monday, April 3, 2017

When Giants Fall

When Giants Fall

Leslie Griffith’s Eye-opening Documentary

Story by Sandy Cathcart


Something terrible is happening to elephants, something more terrible than we could have imagined. These beautiful, magnificent giants that have captured our souls with their wise eyes, long flowing ears and glistening tusks are being slaughtered at an unbelievable rate. If something isn’t done about it, elephants may be extinct in another five to ten years.

“My grandchildren will probably only hear stories about them,” says one African native, trying hard to clear his throat and hold back tears.

“I’d say it’s closer to five years,” says Leslie Griffith, one brave woman and award-winning documentary filmmaker who lives in Southern Oregon. She received 37 Emmy nominations and won nine, but she’s most proud of her two Edward R. Murrow awards for excellence in broadcast journalism.

Griffith points out that over 100,000 elephants were killed in a small span of three years while most of the world stood by in silence. Fifty elephants die every day in the country of Mozambique, 30 each day in Tanzania. She says the money puts Ak-47’s in the hands of kidnapped child soldiers, gunrunners and one of the most notorious criminals in the world—Joseph Kony.

Who goes up against Kony? Leslie Griffith does. A courageous woman with a heart as big as the elephants she loves, she extravagantly used her life savings to travel to Africa with an amazing team of bold men and women. There they documented the tragedy happening to elephants. Her desire is to awaken the world to the plight of the elephant so that something can be done before it’s too late.

The result of her travels is a soul-wrenching movie, “When Giants Fall.” The film has received high praise from people like Bill Maher, who commented, “An insightful, thought-provoking, unflinching love story to elephants.” Ingrid E. Newkirk (PETA President) says it’s “powerful, beautifully done, heartbreaking, inspiring.”

“When Giants Fall” portrays the beauty and intelligence of elephants in their natural setting. We see them caring for their young and rushing to the aid of any troubled elephant. “They are amazing animals,” says Griffith, “more intelligent than us in many ways. They can teach us how to live because they have survived.”

There is much documentation of elephants being able to use tools through a process of thinking that gets them to an, “Aha!” moment. If there is something out of reach, for example, they may find an object to push in place so they can step on it and reach higher. They have a sense of playfulness and deep social roots and have long been known to mourn their dead.

Griffith tells the story of legendary conservationist Lawrence Anthony who was known as the “Elephant Whisperer.”

“When he died,” Griffith says, “two herds of elephants came from 12 hours away to say good-bye to the man they loved. They had not visited the house for over a year and then they showed up and stayed for two days. They mourned him as if he was one of their own. How did they even know he died?”

Griffith has witnessed baby elephants crying for days after their mothers have been killed. One mourned its mother until it, too, joined its mother in death––its heart too broken to go on.

“When you have dozens of experiences like this,” Griffith says, “and you see this passion and sense of community, of being one with each other in their families, the first time you think it’s a fluke. The second time you think it’s interesting. But the tenth time you see an animal that we could learn from. Elephants have learned to get along or they will all die. They understand that truth and we don’t.”

Rebel groups are using blood ivory proceeds to fund war, and poachers kill over 30,000 elephants a year. They often hire young boys at low pay to do the killing. These young boys are looking for a way to provide for their families or a way out of poverty. A lot of them end up dead.

Other elephants are killed, along with other wildlife, through slow poisoning from cyanide seeping into waterways from the many mines springing up all over Africa. The problem is enormous with traffickers taking advantage of legal trade to launder their illegal wares. Buyers often think they are purchasing something legal when they are not, and African countries lack resources to fight poachers. But there is one thing we can all do. Stop buying ivory!

It seems like a simple thing, but the United States is the world’s second largest consumer of illegal ivory following close behind China. A National Geographic article from last year stated that American “young people see ivory as a way to project an image of wealth and high social status.” In other words, “It’s cool to own ivory.”

In the United States, a law was passed this last year to nearly ban all sales of ivory in the U.S., but as long as people will buy ivory the killing of elephants will continue. One of the best ways we can stop it is to pass the word that wearing ivory is very uncool.

Too simple? It may be as simple or as complex as that. No buyers, no poachers.

“When Giants Fall” is one of the best ways of getting the word out. Who can watch it and not feel a tug at their soul? Four hundred people who viewed it in Ashland gave it a standing ovation. One woman came up afterwards holding an heirloom bracelet. “What do I do with this,” she asked “It’s been in my family for 150 years.”

“Tuck it away in a drawer,” Griffith advised, “but don’t display it.”

“This is something we have to stop,” says Saba Douglas-Hamilton, a conservationist and trustee for Save the Elephants Kenya who is featured in the film, “…because the vast roaming herds that we know and that are so important for the ecosystems and from which we can learn so much will disappear…it’s a holocaust of elephants.”

So, what can we do to stop this holocaust? Pass the word, donate to trusted organizations that are fighting poaching in Africa, watch “When Giants Fall” and have your friends watch it. You can see the trailer and find trusted organizations at www.whengiantsfall.com

There is still time to save the elephants! It would be a shame for our grandchildren to miss out on these magnificent animals.

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