Fierce Females on Front Lines of Africa’s Poaching War Are Focus of Doc Breaking Their Silence
Showing how women are fighting to save elephants, rhinos and other endangered species, the documentary also illustrates how the illegal wildlife trade can lead to horrific diseases, like COVID-19
When filmmaker Kerry David first started researching the poaching crisis in Africa —criminals killing endangered animals for profit — she only saw men on the front lines fighting to protect them.
Then she started hearing about some fierce females — rangers and even a former police captain who started a rhino orphanage — who were doing everything they could to protect elephants, rhinos and other endangered species that poachers are quickly making extinct.
As an award-winning filmmaker, David knew she had to tell their stories.
The result? The breathtaking documentary Breaking Their Silence: Women on the Frontline of the Poaching War, which shows firsthand what courageous women are doing to protect endangered animals.
The illegal wildlife trade, David points out, not only puts endangered species at risk — but it has contributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the world to isolate at home and social distance as more than 269,000 have died, per the latest figures from the New York Times.
“I never could have imagined how timely my film would be when I set off to meet these courageous women who fight on the frontlines of this mostly silent war,” David tells PEOPLE.
“The connection that illegally poached wildlife, specifically the pangolin in an Asian market in this instance, has a direct impact on our well-being," she continues. "We might well be home and quarantined because we ventured into areas where humans and wildlife should not interact."
David adds, “We are not supposed to be interacting with much of the wildlife that brings us viruses (MERS/SARS/COVID-19). Hopefully this great universal pause will give all of us a chance to examine our relationship to wildlife and the planet.”
For two nights only on Saturday and May 14, viewers worldwide will be able to watch Breaking Their Silence: Women on the Frontline of the Poaching War on Vimeo for $19.99.
The film can be viewed for a full 24 hours. The rental includes a one-year membership to David’s non-profit organization OverAndAboveAfrica.com — a $60 value. For more information, visit the page on Vimeo.
A 20-year film industry veteran, David began her film career at Paramount and went on to serve as the assistant for Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise before starting her own production company in 2001.
Her film credits include the Agent Cody Banks franchise starring Hilary Duff and Muniz and Like Dandelion Dust, based on The New York Times best-selling book and starring Mira Sorvino and Barry Pepper.
But it was her work as a philanthropist through her non-profit Over and Above Africa that introduced her to the nightmare that Africa and Asia’s endangered species face every day as poachers torture and maim them to make money.
Keeping the animals alive helps the economy more than killing the animals, David has said.
The Big Life Foundation, an organization that protects elephants and wildlife, did a study showed that each elephant brings in $140 million over its lifetime because of tourism, David said in a 2019 interview on CNN.
“But if you kill it just to hunt it, it's $40,000, so actually it is more effective to find ways to keep these elephants alive and find ways to live in harmony with mankind than it is to actually lift the ban…and declare open season on these elephants, which are such beautiful sentient beings,” David told CNN.
At the time, Botswana had lifted its ban on elephant hunting — a law David is trying to fight.
“We must take accountability that we have taken up every square inch of this planet," she says, "leaving little space for the wildlife that contributes crucially to our biosphere peacefully."
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.