I watch as the saw plunges into his horn, his eyes screwed shut among the wrinkles of his massive face. Some may call it anthropomorphism, but I see fear etched into every fold of his leathery skin. Skin that appears to be so impenetrable in comparison to our feeble defence and yet, despite this powerful exterior, rhinos, along with many other species, are in grave danger. They are cutting off his horn not out of malice, but out of compassion, removing the very thing that will otherwise plunge him into grave danger. For we now live in a world where trinkets are valued above life and fanciful claims of ‘medicinal value’ are decimating some of our most iconic and valued species.
My generation have been born into a world where rhinos and elephants are rare and, unless we drastically alter their trajectory away from extinction, we’ll inherit a world in which rhinos and elephants are merely memories tainted with regret. How will we describe to our children the magnificence of the elephant? Their rumbles like distant thunder, their tough dust-crusted hides, the great gushing breaths resounding in the halls of their lungs. Words don’t do justice. They never will.
Something equally as difficult to convey is their plight. In the last 10 years, over 7,000 rhinos and 200,000 elephants have been killed. Yet no statistic will strike you as deeply as ‘The Last Animals’ - a documentary by Kate Brooks that takes an intense, raw and devastating look at the global response to this slaughter and the desperate measures to genetically rescue the Northern White rhinos who are on the edge of extinction. Even if you don’t consider yourself an avid wildlife-lover, this film strips away the impediments of human nature and evaluates our most elemental traits. We watch with baited breath as a tale of good and bad unfurls into a complex conundrum, a war not only between species, but also within species. It is a film that will devastate, distress, inspire and empower you in equal measure and it couldn’t have sprouted into our awareness at a better time.
On the same day that the trailer for The Last Animals was released, China signed a death warrant for two already imperilled creatures that are teetering on the brink of extinction. China legalised the use of rhino horn and tiger bone for ‘medicinal purposes’. This devastating blow was intensified by a WWF report produced on the same day that stated ‘Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970’. With this cascade of overwhelmingly bad news, we can’t help but feel incompetent as our development is almost inversely proportionate to the decline of other species. But, as ‘The Last Animals’ highlights, we have to hold firmly onto what we have left, not only in terms of species, but in terms of human nature. We have a propensity to succeed and flourish. Whilst this very attribute may have been the thing that has plunged our planet into danger, it will also be our lifeline.