Yet another of the planet’s species is in danger of extinction: the rhinoceros. Vestige follows some of the last remaining, protected in Kruger National Park, South Africa from the onslaught of poachers. Rhinoceros are of particular value for their horns, in demand by Asian business elites as a symbol of wealth. The documentary utilises an impressive range of interview footage to show the people who risk their lives on a daily basis protecting this collapsing species. We follow a Zulu bush tracker; the world’s largest private rhino owner; a front-line anti-poaching unit; and a veterinarian heading dehorning programmes in order to remove the hunting incentive of poachers. Vestige is an honest depiction of the ongoing battle to save the rhinos, and tells their story within the greater framework of human philosophy.
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
Rhinos were once found throughout Eurasia and Africa, but today, three of the five rhino species are Critically Endangered, meaning they face a high chance of extinction.
In recent years rhino numbers have dropped dramatically due to poaching for their horn which is prized in Asian countries. They also face threats from habitat loss and political conflict.
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
Our vision is to contribute to the pro-survival of the rhinoceros as the extinction reaches tipping point. We aim to share a perspective of the story that focuses on the education of the local children, successful breeding reserves as well as the perspective of the indigenous peoples and poachers themselves. This viewpoint in contrary to the usual focus of warfare and bloodshed, we aim to evoke a psycho-philosophical understanding of human greed framed in the killing of rhinoceroses.
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
Our central aim is to share a vastly different perspective on the rhino poaching war. The films that are released tend to frame the issue in an actively dramatic way, whether it is to induce a sense of shock and urgency or to show the most distressing end of the spectrum of the issue. We found it incredibly important to slow down the hysteria surrounding the issue and give an up-close point of view from communities and individuals that are living on the frontline of anti-poaching and dedicating their lives to saving the rhino. Meeting these people is far more endearing and much deeper than pure anger and conflict. This is what we want people to understand when they watch the film.
How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?
Vestige will achieve its outcomes by connecting our audience to the smaller communities and business working tirelessly to protect the rhinoceros. There are many ways in which they can help both in a non-monetary and monetary way. There is even opportunity to work in some of the places framed in the film!
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
We have relationships with the subjects in the film, who are all attached to a business or organisation in South Africa. This partnership informs the way in which we exhibit the symbiotic relationship they have to one another and also allows a diverse range of engagement points for the viewer to connect and contribute to the issue depending on their circumstances and interests.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
We hope the viewer will walk away with a deeper understanding of the nuances that lie underneath the issue of 'horn poaching' and feel compelled to support the communities and organisations that are working toward intergenerational goals that are clear of capitalist ideologies and focus on the need for education and empowerment in impoverished regions of the world.
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
In our eyes, the film is indicative of success even if it merely raises awareness and reaches a wide audience who remain rather passive. The ultimate goal is to reach people who are willing to contribute to the organisations we represent in the film or are in a position to show the film to a large audience for educational purposes - this would look something like having the film screen in high schools along with an education kit.