Silent Forests is a portrait of conservationists and activists who are fighting against all odds to stop forest elephant poaching in Africa's Congo Basin region. The film is an in-depth look at one particular under-reported region, using it as a microcosm to understand the global poaching crisis we face, and what it is like for the men and women who are on the front lines of this war for wildlife.
We will witness how passionate and tenacious these conservationists are, even though they are up against huge institutional challenges like corruption and lack of funding that threaten to systematically derail all their attempts to save the endangered species of the Congo Basin.
Sidonie Asseme is a mother of five who has worked as an eco guard for over the last decade – she was, in fact, one of Cameroon’s very first female eco-guards. She treks for weeks on end in the dense jungle, searching for poaching camps – and her dedication has led to the arrest and detention of 15 poachers and counting. Not surprisingly, though, her work has made her a target: she has received death threats, beatings, and was once locked in a house by poachers who threatened to set her and three other rangers on fire. Sidonie puts her life in peril in order to protect animals like the forest elephant from poaching gangs.
An important part of Sidonie’s job is bio-monitoring, or observing the various animals that come and go from park clearings. Her favorite animals to see in the wild are the forest elephants; but in these same clearings that she used to see plentiful elephant herds at, she now hardly sees any.
PLEASE SUPPORT SIDONIE! Click HERE to send a donation to the World Wildlife Foundation branch that helps deploy Sidonie's eco-guard patrols in southeast Cameroon.
Clement Inkamba-Nkulu is a Wildlife Conservation Society biologist who researches forest elephant clearings in remote Congo-Brazzaville. He conducts both visual and acoustic monitoring to evaluate the abundance of elephants living in this dense forest environment. His studies are part of a larger regional effort called the "Elephant Listening Project." The ELP studies forest elephant vocalization to help deepen our understanding about how these complex and intelligent animals “speak” with each other and form social bonds. The forest elephant is distinct from its cousin, the savanna elephant, in that they are smaller and have tusks that are oriented downward. This allows them to better navigate the forest ecosystem all around the Congo Basin.
Clement faces two interrelated challenges to his work: one is the increased poaching pressure near his clearings, and another is the logging companies that are working in the area. The logging companies create roads that penetrate deep into the forest, which are then used as pathways for poachers to enter the clearings by moped to kill the elephants. Clement is imploring the government to create a properly funded national park in this area, so it will be better protected by eco-guards who perform anti-poaching patrols.
PLEASE SUPPORT CLEMENT! You can help Clement's elephant monitoring efforts by donating to the Elephant Listening Project by clicking HERE. Under the "How would you most like to see us use your donation?" make sure to select ONLY the box marked "Monitor Forest Clearings."
PLEASE ALSO SUPPORT the work of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Central Africa where they are active in forest elephant protection, and in preservation of some of the last remaining forest wildernesses on the planet. You can learn more about their work on their WCS Congo Blog.
Arthur Sniegon is a Czech conservationist who has spearheaded anti-poaching activism across central Africa since 2014. He trains and leads several teams of sniffer dogs who are the Republic of Congo’s gatekeepers for finding endangered species products that poachers are attempting to smuggle out of national parks. The contraband they are trained to detect ranges from primate body parts to ivory to bushmeat. Arthur is currently collaborating with the Jane Goodall Institute and African Parks to deploy his dog teams to Odzala-Kokoua National Park and the Tchimpounga Reserve in Congo-Brazzaville. You can see more of Arthur's past activism work, and the original journey that made him fall in love with African wildlife, on his YouTube Channel: "Arthur the Elephangelist"
PLEASE SUPPORT ARTHUR! Visit his 'Save Elephants' website where you can learn more about current projects and DONATE to his efforts!
Eric Kaba Tah is the Deputy Director of the LAGA Wildlife Law Enforcement Group in Yaounde, Cameroon. LAGA is a grassroots group of dedicated Cameroonian activists that have carried out countless operations into the web of wildlife crime in this region. They are part of a larger network of wildlife law enforcement groups across Africa which are collectively called EAGLE (Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement).
The investigations they conduct come with a high risk, especially since the criminals they target can be well-funded and well-armed. Adding to their difficulties is the endemic corruption at some of the highest echelons of police and government ministries in EAGLE operating countries. Sometimes the very same people who are supposed to enforce anti-trafficking laws are the ones breaking them. Eric and his team speak candidly about confronting corruption while trying to work within the Cameroonian legal system.
Eric is a finalist for the 2020 Indianapolis Prize, a prestigious conservation award.
PLEASE SUPPORT LAGA! Use the CONTACT US form and we will put you directly in touch with LAGA to coordinate a donation.
Jean-Paul Doudoumo is a former elephant poacher who stopped poaching when he received funding to start a cocoa farm and buy a herd of goats. He is also the leader of a local support group of reformed poachers who are atoning for their past actions and finding less destructive ways of making a living. The group, named ABRAT, is trying to convince other area poachers to give up the trade.
Jean-Paul speaks about the poverty that drove him to poach in the first place, and he expresses regret at his decades of slaughter. “When I killed them, I felt terrible. The elephant – it’s like a person. When you kill them, the family sees it, and flees into the forest. If you hunted the Dad elephant, who did the Mom live with after that? What happened to his family?” The irony that his own concern for feeding his family caused him to decimate elephant families isn’t lost on Jean-Paul.
PLEASE SUPPORT JEAN-PAUL! Click HERE to send a donation to the World Wildlife Foundation branch that helps to finance alternate livelihoods for reformed poachers like Jean-Paul and his ABRAT group.