Short documentary Akashinga: The Brave Ones will make its virtual debut during the EarthxFilm Festival, an Earth Day celebration from April 22 to April 27, on the National Geographic Channel. Executively directed by James Cameron, the film follows an all-female unit of warriors in Zimbabwe as they fight to protect native wildlife, battling poachers who kill elephants for their ivory. The International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) created the model after which Akashinga—founded by former Australian sniper and vegan activist Damien Mander—was formed to recruit female-only rancher units to protect Zimbabwe’s wilderness from poachers and trophy hunters. The organization aims to give vulnerable women an opportunity to thrive and its recruits are exclusively single mothers, sex workers, sexual abuse survivors, orphans, and widows.  

The unit started with a handful of ranchers in 2017 and made 191 arrests in its first two-and-a-half years in operation, helping drive an 80-percent downturn in elephant poaching in Zimbabwe’s Lower Zambezi Valley. “These women have achieved what few armies in history have come close to—they won the hearts and minds of the local population,” Mander said. “If given the opportunity, women will change the face of conservation forever.” Operations have now expanded to protect five parks and IAPF is currently training 240 women warriors with the aim of expanding to 1,000 by 2025. “Akashinga puts a spotlight on the IAPF and the courageous women on the front lines of the battle for Africa’s wildlife, under greater threat now than ever before,” Cameron shared on Facebook. National Geographic plans to air the film in 171 countries in 43 languages later this year. 

Cameron—a longtime vegan—previously worked on a number of documentaries with vegan and animal-rights themes, including The Game Changers which also counted martial arts legend Jackie Chan, NBA player Chris Paul, tennis star Novak Djokovic, and world race car champion Lewis Hamilton as part of its impressive group of executive directors.

Photo Credit: International Anti-Poaching Foundation

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