Wildlife and their habitats are severely threatened as never before, and biodiversity is decreasing at an alarming rate. But why should we care?
As it turns out, what's bad for wildlife is also bad for people. The film Killing the Shepherd reveals why, especially for indigenous rural communities. It takes a realistic look at conservation that most documentaries gloss over.
The relationship between humans and wildlife
Humans and wildlife have a delicate, interdependent relationship that isn't always evident until one or the other suffers large-scale harm and the scales are tipped. We're experiencing those negative effects now.
As recently as the 1980s, Zambia's Lower Luano Valley was the home of healthy populations of "Big 5" wildlife populations—elephant, rhinoceros, lion, leopard, and cape buffalo. It was known as the crown jewel of the safari industry.
The realities of poaching
Government safari hunting bans in the 1980s and the early 2000s ushered in the wholesale slaughter of wild game by greed-driven poachers. Nearly overnight, jobs and incomes the safari industry provided disappeared. No one was around to regulate poaching.
This severely impacted the Soli people who had occupied the valley as subsistence farmers for more than 500 years. Drought, floods, famine, and human-wildlife conflict followed in rapid succession. Within just two decades the region was declared game-depleted. The Soli people struggled to find enough to eat, much less pursue education. Soli families sold their young daughters as child brides to stay afloat. Something had to be done.
The Soli woman chief reached out to a local safari operator to collaborate on game management efforts. Her ideas were remarkable. She understood that what was good for the wildlife was also good for her people. Both the Lower Luano wildlife and the Soli people are now thriving once again.
What you do matters
This type of situation isn't unique to Zambia, but the story of what happened there reveals the importance of collaborative wildlife conservation efforts by humans everywhere.
By being better stewards of the land, we all can ensure greater biodiversity and a richer existence for humans and animals for decades to come.
WATCH Killing the Shepherd for the full story.
FIND OUT MORE about the film and Shepherds of Wildlife Society.
WATCH A SNEAK PEEK of the film and find out why it's such an important story for this generation.