Jake Dudman’s upcoming documentary Save The Rhino Vietnam will explore the illegal wildlife trade and the effects of rhino poaching.
The YouTuber and actor spent ten days in Vietnam producing the documentary in association with charity Save The Rhino, alongside his godfather Paul Blackthorne.
Speaking to TenEighty about what first interested him in the project, Jake says: “Well, like many people, I didn’t know what illegal wildlife trade was, and then my godfather told me about this campaign he was doing – ‘Keep Rhinos Horny’ – and I had no idea what it meant. So then he told me about these men who go and chainsaw the faces off of these beautiful creatures to turn a profit and, as any sane human would be, I was shocked!
“So I asked him more and more, and became genuinely interested in what efforts were being made to stop this,” he continues. “Then, a few months later, he told me he was going to Vietnam, to speak to press and try to raise awareness on this issue, and he invited me along! I jumped at the chance. I had an opportunity to immerse myself and hopefully contribute to ending an issue I was deeply passionate about.”
Earlier in 2016, Paul Blackthorne worked with footballer Aaron Ramsey and artist Rob Prior on a Save The Rhino fundraising campaign. The campaign sold over 1,000 t-shirts and raised just under £17,000 for Vietnamese NGO Education for Nature Vietnam. Many celebrities supported the campaign, including Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Chris Hemsworth.
When asked what it was like to work so closely with his godfather on the documentary, Jake affirms that he was a pleasure to work with. “We have a very close personal connection. He’s family. On the very limited time we had ‘off duty’ (from press, shooting, meetings) so to speak, we’d kick a ball about and have a good laugh together. Some points in the trip were utterly devastating, but I think we found comfort in each other’s company. He’s a delight; I’m very fortunate to have him as guidance, and as a friend.”
Jake didn’t have much time to explore Vietnam during the shoot, but says that one of his favourite experiences there was travelling to the jungle north of Hanoi. “We were rowed along some wetlands and got lost amongst the trees, surrounded by hundreds of white butterflies. Those were real ‘take your breath away’ moments.”
Along with the peaceful moments like these, Jake reveals that parts of the filming process were quite nerve-wracking: “On one of the days of the shoot, we went ‘undercover’ in a village known for selling ivory and rhino horn, with hidden camera gear! It was nerve racking but it also fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a secret agent spy. I had a sound pack hidden in my bag, so I was basically James Bond.”
The trip to Vietnam gave Jake the opportunity to learn more about the rhino poaching trade and the impact it’s having on the species. “There are no rhinos in Vietnam. They killed their last in 2010,” he states. “However, 90% of rhino horn poached in Africa ends up there, due to this Viet/Chinese market, and the belief of the horn as a symbol of status and power. At the current rate of killing, these chubby little unicorns (who have been around since the dinosaurs) will be extinct in the next ten years. We’ve [destroyed] 95% of the species in the last century.”
Making the documentary also led to some eye-opening realisations for Jake about the nature of the trade. “I had no idea of the fact that rhino poaching funds terrorism,” he says. “Al Shabaab and Boko Haram are both partly funded by this trade. It’s thought that around 40% of Al Shabaab’s funding comes from the sale of rhino horn and elephant ivory.”
Jake hopes the upcoming documentary will “educate people on this matter and encourage them to take action! But more than that, I hope it encourages people to speak up about whatever they’re passionate about.
“The film looks beyond just ‘the killing of animals is bad’,” explains Jake. “I want to elicit the fact that it’s us humans that are doing this. What does that say about us as a species? There’s so much beauty in the world, and we need to look after it, whether that be preventing climate change or preventing the extinction of the animals who live here with us.”
The release of Save The Rhino Vietnam has been pushed back to February 2017.
Updated 13/01/17: The article incorrectly stated that the documentary would be released on 29 November 2016. This has been updated with correct information about the release date.
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