Many of the reviews of brilliant documentary When Lambs Become Lions—about elephant poaching in modern-day Kenya—will claim that the director, John Kasbe, does not take sides on the issue. He does not demonize a poacher, who is not named; nor does he glorify a game ranger, Asan, whose job it is to protect the elephants with lethal force.

The director hunts elephants with the poachers, and he patrols the park with the armed game rangers. The game rangers mean business. They will kill a poacher on the spot without a second thought. The poachers don’t give a fuck about the elephants. They are poor, and they need the money. The rangers also need money, as they have not been paid in ages by the government.

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And it is here that the director takes a clear side, his film clearly denounces the extreme poverty that both the poachers and the rangers face. If the poachers stop killing elephants, then the rangers will lose their jobs. Therefore, we have the poachers exploiting the elephants, and the rangers exploiting the poachers.

The problem then is not the poaching; it is, of course, capitalism. On one side of the economy, there is a market for elephant tusks. And on the other side, low or no wages. You can’t end the former without addressing the latter. recommended