Renowned environmentalist Richard Leakey hopes a Hollywood blockbuster will educate the world especially mainlanders about the threat of extinction facing elephants due to the huge demand for ivory in China and Hong Kong.
The film will be directed by Angelina Jolie and star Brad Pitt as Leakey.
Speaking to The Standard during a four-day visit to the SAR as part of the Royal Geographical Society Hong Kong’s 20th anniversary celebrations, Leakey said greater education in East Asia is needed to help curb the trade.
“Thirty years later, hundreds of millions of consumers emerged out of a rapidly growing Chinese economy and ivory is very attractive, as it was in Japan 35 years ago,” he said.
“The Chinese consumer now is hungry to buy ivory, they have absolutely no information about what the trade implies for the survival of the species.
“I thought maybe we should try develop a project where a blockbuster movie could be made about elephants and their protection, and have the movie be seen in this part of the world.
“In this part of the world, superstars [such as Jolie and Pitt] still attract enormous interest. I believe this can change the attitudes of tens of millions of people.”
Leakey confirmed Pitt will star in the film, called Africa, which will begin filming later this year.
After beginning his career as a paleontologist, Leakey was the first head of Kenya’s Wildlife Conservation and Management Department, founded to combat illegal poaching.
There are about 400 local licensed ivory traders who can sell about 117 tonnes of ivory already on the market before the 1989 international ban.
The government holds about 17 tonnes of confiscated ivory that is being destroyed in batches at the chemical waste treatment center in Tsing Yi.
Leakey and WildlifeDirect chief executive Paula Kahumbu have met officials from the Airport Authority and lawmakers Elizabeth Quat Pui-fan and Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, who support a ban on the sale of ivory in Hong Kong.
The Royal Geographical Society Hong Kong has arranged for the pair to visit 11 schools and speak to more than 5,000 children about elephants.