Since its release, "Killing the Shepherd," the 2021 documentary film from Director Tom Opre, has resonated with a worldwide audience, connecting viewers with the positive relationship between animals and indigenous communities from the viewpoint of the Tsoli people of Zambia. Now, the Shepherds of Wildlife Society (SOWS) has the honor of hosting a screening of the film during the 19th Meeting of the Conferences of the Parties to CITES (CoP 19) in Panama City in November 2022.
Formed in 1975, CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is the product of an international agreement between governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of a species. Today, more than 184 governments, or parties, work together in this framework to offer protection to more than 37,000 species of animals and plants by regulating the trade of both live specimens and associated products, such as fur pelts or dried herbs.
The Conferences of Parties meeting occurs every two-to-three years and offers parties a chance to review proposals and updates for the Convention. The theme for CoP 19 is indigenous rural communities and wildlife. Thus, the film Killing the Shepherd is perfect for the conference. Executive Director of SOWS, Top Opre, describes the significance of this event by stating, “Our mission is to reconnect modern society with nature, and our interactions at the CoP 19 are critical. We will have the ears and eyes of the delegates from 184 countries who are signers to the treaty. In addition to the government dignitaries, we will also be able to speak with over 100 media and mini NGOs. The reach of this event is pivotal to connecting the globe with the story of the Tsoli people and helping to raise awareness of their relationships with the local animals.” The CoP 19 showing builds on an earlier 2022 virtual preview, complete with a panel discussion with Professor Adam Hart (University of Gloucestershire) and Maxi Louis (Namibia), Opre offered with the secretary general of CITES.
To build on the impact of this unique opportunity, SOWS has received support from the Mzuri Wildlife Foundation to donate 3,500 snare bracelets to the host country, Panama, to be provided in the welcome package to all of the participants of the conference. Opre will also conduct interviews with the media and meet with government delegations to discuss the importance of rural communities and their relationship with wildlife.
Opre concluded, “since inception, Shepherds of Wildlife Society has strived to capture stories such as those of the Tsoli people and use them to educate modern society and reconnect them to nature. It is our distinct honor to attend CoP 19 and carry their story forward.”