Milking The Rhino: Conservation, Community and Empowerment

Last month, I was very fortunate to attend the premiere of the film ‘Milking The Rhino’ at the Gene Siskel Film center in Chicago.
Milking The Rhino

This film left an big impression on me. Long time readers of this blog know that I do have granola-head, green thumb, renewable-energy obsession, tree-huggery tendencies, so no surprise there eh.
Without giving too much away…the film opened my eyes to the link between Kenya’s history and our attitudes towards conservation. Before the British came, Kenyan communities had traditions around hunting wild animals (These traditions and folklore still persist – I visited
Samburu in 2006 and learned a wee bit about this). I would posit that it was sustainable, because there was some balance between the hunting that was done and the populations of wildlife. When laws were enacted to forbid Kenyans from hunting…something they had been doing for millennia, that relationship with the natural world was broken. Why would one want to protect something that they are not benefitting from? Wildlife started to be seen as a nuisance. Granted that there is demand for ‘exotic’ skins, tusks, and bone from wild animals particularly in Asia; one of the factors behind poaching in the parks, there are instances of communities killing wildlife because their crops were destroyed by animals such as Elephants. Still, our attitudes towards conservation and environment bear some reflection.

The film profiles two communities, one in Kenya, at the Il Ngwesi lodge and the Lewa Conservancy, and another in Namibia. The narration is brilliantly voiced by a Kenyan Munyikombo Bukusi, a very talented guy. This film had me making plans to visit Il Ngwesi Group Ranch, if you need a place to get away and relax your cares away…Il Ngwesi lodge looks like just the place to go.

The blurb from the film’s site gives you a glimpse into the documentary…

A ferocious kill on the Serengeti, warnings about endangered species
These cliches of nature documentaries ignore a key landscape feature: villagers just off-camera, who navigate the dangers and costs of living with wildlife.
The Maasai of Kenya and Namibians Himba two of Earth’s oldest cattle cultures are in the midst of upheaval. After a century of white man conservation,which displaced them and fueled resentment towards wildlife, they are vying to share the wildlife-tourism pie.
Community-based conservation, which tries to balance the needs of wildlife and people, has been touted by environmentalists as win-win. The reality is more complex. Charting the collision of ancient ways with Western expectations, MILKING THE RHINO tells intimate, hopeful and heartbreaking stories of people facing deep cultural change.

The film will premiere on PBS Spring 2009, hosted by Terence Howard (the famous actor – Crash, Hustle & Flow etc)
Till then, the following festivals and screenings are your best chance of watching it. If you cannot wait, you can purchase the DVD for $25.00 from Kartemquin films, just contact Xan. I would highly recommend the DVD.


November 2nd 2008 3pm: Chicago Humanities FestivalChicago Cultural Center

International Premiere
International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)
November 2008

Washington, D.C. Premiere : D.C. Environmental Film Festival
March 11 – 22, 2009

*I will update this post if there will be screenings in Kenya. (I am asking about this and hoping we can arrange one soon)

6 thoughts on “Milking The Rhino: Conservation, Community and Empowerment

  1. Pingback: Film Screening: Milking The Rhino, Jan 13th 2009 @ Goethe-Institut « Nairobi Now :: arts, culture and events

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