By Richard Boddington, ,
Published April 16, 2018
Back in 2014, I visited South Africa on a location scout for a new movie I planned to make there. As I toured the country and met with animal trainers and wildlife experts, I became aware of the severity of the elephant-poaching crisis. The statistics regarding Africa’s elephant population were grim- the one that stood out the most was that 30, 000 elephants a year are being killed by the poachers for their ivory.
During my visit I met a man named Sean Hensman whose family had been run off their land in Zimbabwe by President Robert Mugabe. The family fled to South Africa, bringing their entire elephant herd with them. These elephants were wonderfully well-trained and interacted easily with humans. I came up with an idea: a movie about a boy and his elephant who take down the elephant poachers together.
Three years later I went back to Sean Hensman’s property with a 75 person crew, Elizabeth Hurley, and a talented young actor from Canada, Sam Ashe Arnold. The movie we made became known as, “Phoenix Wilder And The Great Elephant Adventure,” an epic tale of how one lost orphan boy forms an incredible bond with an African elephant, and together they make a huge difference in the natural and human world. The subject matter is difficult, but presented in a family friendly way so that everyone can enjoy the movie.
The story is fictional of course, but the facts are ripped from the headlines. The Great Elephant Census reported that between 2007 and 2014, Africa lost 144, 000 elephants. Think about that number: 144, 000 elephants. Knowing that the elephant has the longest gestational period of any animal at 22 months, just think about how long it would take to replace 144, 000 elephants with such a low reproductive rate!
It is possible to win the war against elephant poaching and save these magnificent animals before it’s too late.
I discovered by working with elephants for several weeks that they are the most intelligent animals on the planet. Their brains are larger than a human’s, and they respond very quickly when taught new skills. They form incredibly strong bonds with their fellow elephants, traveling in herds lead by the top matriarch. They care for one another, the mother elephant, her sisters, and the grandmas, all join together to ensure that the babies are the most protected young in the animal kingdom. I pity the poor lion that so much as looks at a baby elephant!
Few will travel to Africa to see these amazing animals in the wild; however, you can see them on the big screen on Save The Elephant Day, this Monday April 16th at a theatre near you. This one-time nationwide screening, has been made possible by Fathom Events. Viewers will also see an intriguing presentation on elephants by Sean Hensman himself before the movie rolls. Elizabeth Hurley speaks following the film about her commitment to elephant conservation; viewers will also hear from world famous conservationist, Dr. Richard Leakey.
It is possible to win the war against elephant poaching and save these magnificent animals before it’s too late. Conservation begins with awareness, especially for the new generation. I hope you and your family can join us at the theatre for “Phoenix Wilder And The Great Elephant Adventure.”