Poachers trading ivory are threatening Africa’s elephants with extinction. I shot a film showing how dogs are stemming the flow of illegal ivory in Kenya.

By Lily Annenberg

When I was younger, I dreamed of watching wild elephants roam across the vast African savanna. Today, it would be difficult for me to realize that aspiration.

The reality is that poachers seeking ivory are threatening Africa’s elephant population with extinction.

My film, Canines for Conservation, throws a spotlight on efforts by the Canines for Conservation Foundation to stem the trade of illegal ivory, cut from elephants’ tusks.

The program, under the auspices of the African Wildlife Foundation, trains and deploys detection dogs to airports, sea ports and border crossings to uncover illegal shipments of ivory, rhino horn and other wildlife products. My film focuses on the work of service dogs at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport.

I envisioned the idea and story line of Canines for Conservation in 2016 and completed the project in 2018.

After spending a week in the airport following trackers and their dogs, I directed the film with the goal of showcasing their determination and commitment. The short documentary highlights the threat that animals living on the African savanna face from poaching, and how Kenya is advancing its wildlife protection and safety in an effort to save certain species from extinction before it is too late.

As director, I constructed a project budget; conducted interviews; organized footage lists, schedules and locations; and determined the compositing and editing style of the piece.

Others working on the film included Adam Biddle, director of photography, and Mickey Blithe, who provided crucial editing assistance. Charlie Annenberg Weingarten was the producer, and Explore.org the executive producer.


elephantsLily Annenberg is in her final year at the Thacher School in California. She enjoys making films and is particularly interested in relating stories about wildlife conservation, drawing attention to organizations that help the environment but which society often does not recognize. She would like to pursue an academic career in documentary studies.

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