As a photojournalist, Ms. Brooks, who spoke as part of The Hun School’s Centennial Speaker Series
, has shot photos in war zones around the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq. (See her photos here
.) Her pictures have appeared in Time
, The New Yorker
, and Smithsonian
A Tribeca film critic called The Last Animals, which will be shown at The Hun School next fall, a “powerful and urgent documentary” and said Ms. Brooks “is a war correspondent who lets us know…that this is an all-out battle” to save these animals from extinction.
“What Kate Brooks is achieving is so inspiring,” said Hun student Rebecca Holloway ’18, who ate lunch with the filmmaker. “She’s a strong, humble woman who is following her passions to better the world, and I aspire to follow in similar footsteps.” Rebecca hopes to pursue a career in science and plans to travel to New York with a Hun group to see Ms. Brooks’ film at Tribeca on April 26th.
During her Hun talk, Ms. Brooks said that The Last Animals grew, ironically, out of a 2010 vacation. After “a particularly troubling” assignment with a Medevac unit in Afghanistan in which she saw many wounded soldiers and civilians, she decided to go watch wildlife in Kenya.
“I saw a herd of elephants in the wild, and it reminded me that there was still some natural order in the world,” said Ms. Brooks. That feeling, however, didn’t last, as she learned that 30,000 elephants are murdered in Africa each year for their tusks, which are sold in the worldwide ivory trade. (There is a near-total ban on the import and sale of ivory in the United States.) Rhinoceros are similarly poached for their horns, with just three Northern White Rhinoceros remaining in Africa, while scientists frantically work to reproduce them with IVF, and even possible cloning, technologies.
Some people in some Asian countries believe that ground rhino horns can cure everything from cancer to hangovers. (There is no scientific basis for these claims.) The surviving white rhinos live in a reserve in Kenya, and are protected by armed guards around the clock.
Armed with this knowledge, Ms. Brooks, who did cinematography on another film, The Boxing Girls of Kabul, set out to produce and direct her own film.
“We filmed in five languages, and shot on four continents,” said Ms. Brooks, who started her career in Russia documenting the abuse of children with disabilities in orphanages there. What motivated her to continue over the five-year arc of fundraising for and filming The Last Animals?
“This issue was underreported, and the coverage was superficial,” she said. “I wanted to immerse myself in the issue.” Tribeca film reviewer Fionnuala Halligan noted that Brooks ends her film “urging the viewer to help stop the slaughter… and it is hoped the audience answers her call.”