While America is not a source of the Ivory trade, it’s one of the biggest sellers of the product. For decades America’s lackadaisical laws allowed ivory traders to pass newly harvested ivory as “antique ivory,” which was legal if it was over 100 years old, acquired through certain ports and met other criteria.
One of the key problems with the law was that the government had to prove it was acquired illegally, the seller did not have to prove that their ivory was acquired legally. A distinct difference from almost all other controlled products on the market. It’s the same as if you had prescription drugs, a handgun, or a car, and it was the government’s job to prove it wasn’t yours, not the other way around.
The name given to illegal ivory is “blood ivory,” and it shares the same terrible connotations with the “blood diamond” market. Testing and proving the negative would cost the government millions on a case by case basis, and for years little was done to stop the illegal flow of ivory to the United States.
This past year things started to change. In September, the United States and China made a historic commitment to enact “nearly complete bans” on the import and export of ivory but the fight is far from over. Some states, like right here in NYC, are looking into banning the sale of ivory entirely, but it’s still legal in America to import and sell the material.
That’s why, leading up to the July 1st release of The Legend of Tarzan, Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures are teaming up with international NGO Stop Ivory to protect Africa’s rare forest elephant and, by extension, save the world’s elephants from extinction.
The sweeping African landscapes that feature prominently in the film were captured on location in the extraordinary country of Gabon, where English conservationist and documentary filmmaker Josh Ponte has spent the last 15 years working to preserve the country’s wildlife.
Ponte, who served as the African technical advisor on the film, has focused his efforts on stopping the illegal killing of the rare forest elephants that call Gabon home. In the last 30 years, ivory poaching has reduced the global forest elephant population by two thirds – and half of those that are left live in the Gabonese forest. Without action, even these could be gone in a decade.
Now, the cast, filmmakers and Studios behind The Legend of Tarzan are joining forces with Stop Ivory in support of the Elephant Protection Initiative to help save this endangered animal. The partnership was forged in the spirit of creating entertaining, informative and meaningful ways to engage the global community of moviegoers to join the effort to end the poaching of Gabon’s surviving forest elephants while reinforcing the film’s central themes of humanity’s deep connections with wildlife and nature.
The campaign began in earnest with a Public Service Announcement (PSA) for the Elephant Protection Initiative, featuring the film’s star Alexander Skarsgård and appearing on Regal Cinemas screens across the United States as part of their “Stars of Hope” program.
Skarsgård and Margot Robbie will also be featured in an international Stop Ivory PSA, which will be seen in theaters, as well as broadcast and a variety of digital and social platforms.
On Twitter, Warner Bros. and Stop Ivory are participating in a “ReTweet for Good” campaign, with the studio making a donation to the organization for retweets of select Stop Ivory PSAs at designated times.
Additionally, the Studio has created a featurette, entitled “From Gabon to the Big Screen,” which chronicles director David Yates’ journey with Ponte to capture the landscapes of Gabon for the film. It will bring viewers face-to-face with the beautiful animals they’ve joined forces to save. This video piece will open up the lush rainforests of Gabon and highlight the integral role forest elephants play in the ecological backbone of the region.
Finally, a limited number of movie-goers who see the film in international markets will receive a special plush elephant, signifying an additional donation has been made by Warner Bros. to the Stop Ivory campaign.
Please visit stopivory.org for more information and to sign-up to help stop the illegal ivory trade.