Poachers Aren’t All Evil: An Unconventional Conservation Film

Albert Mathe, a former poacher living in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Photograph Courtesy of Sinamatella Productions.

Not all poachers are evil, nor are they as indifferent toward the environment as many activists make them out to be.

That statement might elicit some negative reactions from many an online conservation dilettante.

But similar to the way certain folks—including one rather objectionable presidential candidate—living in fear of terrorism will stereotype Muslims, so too can those passionate about saving Africa’s wildlife make sweeping generalizations about people that kill them.

Fortunately, in spite of a world gone mad with an intolerance that’s reaching astronomical levels, there are some working to change the way we think about, talk about, and approach conservation.

Enter James Walsh, South African filmmaker and founder of Sinamatella Productions.

His 2015 film, (En)snared, highlights the plight of Africa’s endangered wildlife, and the hardships of a Zulu community living in a rural area of KwaZulu-Natal—a place Walsh refers to as the fringes.

The documentary takes a critical look at people who are all too often unfairly upbraided by armchair environmental activists.

Albert Mathe, a former poacher living in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Photo courtesy of Sinamatella Productions.

“We wanted to start a progressive conversation because [conservation] gets polarized very quickly,” he said.

That conservation is such a cause célèbre, bandied about from a developed world perspective where everything is on tap and convenient is, for Walsh, a far cry from rural Africa, a land where many communities struggle to make ends meet.

It’s a pertinent take on privilege and access, and how it impacts the planet’s biodiversity.

“The community perception of wilderness is very different than the romantic perception of wilderness that we have,” he said.

How Film Can Misrepresent Nature

<img src="http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/files/2016/04/KwaZulu-Natal-600×400.jpg" alt="Rural KwaZulu-Natal, an area with roughly one-million people living with wildlife. Photograph courtesy of Sinamatella Productions." width="600" height="400" srcset="http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/files/2016/04/KwaZulu-Natal-600×400.jpg 600w, http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/files/2016/04/KwaZulu-Natal-768×512.jpg 768w, http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/files/2016/04/KwaZulu-Natal-590×393.jpg 590w, http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/files/2016/04/KwaZulu-Natal-596×397.jpg 596w, http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/files/2016/04/KwaZulu-Natal-300×200.jpg —> Read More