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A Shooting in Zambia
Jeffrey Goldberg discusses a scene from the ABC show "Turning Point," in which a suspected poacher is shot and killed.
Released on 03/25/2010
[exciting flute music]
[Tour Guide] Hippos ahead.
[Jeffrey] My name is Jeffrey Goldberg,
and I've written an article in this week's New Yorker
about the activities of a pair of American conservationists:
Mark and Delia Owens,
who went to study the hyenas and lions
and other large mammals,
but got caught up in what could be best described
as the poaching wars.
When Mark and Delia Owens got
to the North Luawnga National Park,
the poachers were decimating
the park's elephant population,
and they found virtually
no law enforcement presence at all.
They found scouts assigned to the park
who were bedraggled and essentially unarmed.
They raised money and bought uniforms, food, and weapons
to take these newly trained scouts into The Bush,
bringing the fight to the poachers.
[News Anchor] From ABC news, this is Turning Point.
[Jeffrey] Mark and Delia Owens
got a lot of attention for their works.
They had an ABC crew come out to Zambia
and spend a month with them.
Okay, you find the group.
You backtrack it into the hills,
and you set up an ambush there, huh?
[Jeffrey] In the course of filming,
the ABC crew filmed the shooting of an alleged poacher,
a suspected poacher.
And the circumstances of this shooting,
which was shown nationally on ABC in 1996,
are the center point of this article.
[Narrator] On this mission,
we would witness the ultimate price
paid by a suspected poacher.
Early in the morning,
a scout discovers an abandoned campsite.
Lying on the ground are shotgun shells.
So the scout to decides to wait in ambush.
Our cameras begin rolling again
after a shot is fired at the returning trespasser.
The bodies of the poachers
are often left where they fall
for the animals to eat.
Conservation, morality, Africa.
[Jeffrey] It's not every day
that television news magazines show the killing
of another human so bluntly,
One of the many odd things about this shocking video
is that we, the viewer,
are not told by ABC where exactly this happened,
and we're not told who is doing the shooting.
This video, which is quite a short piece of this film,
is so decontextualized that
it opens up many more questions than it answers.
The questions that I was left with
when I first saw it included:
Was this man really a poacher?
Why was he alone if he was a poacher?
Who did the shooting?
ABC never tells us if they investigated
who this alleged poacher was,
if they ever learned his name or what village he came from,
or whether he was, in fact, a poacher at all.
When this film was screened in Zambia,
it caused a bit of an uproar.
[helicopter blades whirring]
What happened was, a film that was designed
to bring credit to their work
instead opened up some questions.
The American Embassy told them that it wouldn't be safe
for them to come back given the investigation,
and the buildings of their project
in the park were seized by the government,
and the work did continue,
but it continued without the Owenses.
They never came back.
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