Unfair Game: The Politics of Poaching

Unfair Game: The Politics of Poaching

Saturday, October 17,  6:30 pm, University Christian Church

By suggested donation of $5

John Antonelli, 37 min, USA, Zambia, Swaziland

Can wildlife conservation efforts go too far? Is execution ever a just punishment for poaching animals? Through the inspiring stories of two activists, Unfair Game explores the disastrous results when wildlife takes priority over indigenous people’s land rights, human rights, and their very survival. The film also shows the limitless positive repercussions when native people and animals are both valued and respected.

This half hour documentary explores conservation and sustainable development as a viable method for safeguarding the human rights of indigenous peoples whose traditional homelands are bordering wildlife refuges. Through the inspiring stories of Thuli Makama and Hammer Simwinga, a native daughter and son of Africa, the film bears witness to extreme conflict and severe danger, as well as visionary ingenuity and resolution.

This complex saga spans several decades in two markedly different African countries that have taken radically different approaches to their one shared, grim reality. Poaching dominated the economies of both societies throughout the eighties. During that time, over one hundred thousand endangered elephants and rhinos were slaughtered for their tusks and horns.

Today, this kind of poaching has diminished significantly in both Zambia and nearby Swaziland, thanks to laws enforcing wildlife conservation. Yet, the different means by which that détente came about stands in sharp contrast in these two nearby countries. Zambia has become a model for environmental sustainability whereas Swaziland’s preventative measures are ruthless by any measure. Indigenous people have been brutally tortured and killed for mere suspicion of poaching.

In Zambia, the indigenous Bemba people, who once labored for poachers as a means to survive their dire poverty, are now thriving thanks to sustainable development training programs. These projects have helped the Bemba to learn new trades including organic farming, flour milling and beekeeping, thus transitioning away from their meager survival in the bloody poaching trade.

In Swaziland, the indigenous Nguni people have traditionally relied on hunting small game for their subsistence. However, under stringent conservation laws, hunting a warthog or impala for food is considered poaching—a crime often punished through brutal vigilante justice. For nearly 20 years, Nguni people have been tortured and killed for mere suspicion of poaching, with no apparent evidence and no due process. The Killing Seasons explores these vastly different tactics, starkly contrasting the Swaziland case with that of Zambia.


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