The Rhino War

Screenwriters: Philip Cayford, Nancy LeBrun

Institute History

  • 1988 Sundance Film Festival


Since 1970, poachers have slaughtered 95 percent of Africa’s black rhino population. The demand for rhino horns—priced at up to $10,000 per kilo on the black market—perpetuates the killing of these magnificent creatures. In Africa, the war to save the rhino is reaching a bitter climax. Zimbabwe game ranges, armed with rifles, patrol the animal reserves with the government’s permission to kill poachers on sight. since 1985, more than 20 poachers have been captured alive, and over 28 killed; in that same period, over 250 rhinos have been destroyed.

Although the sale and trade of rhino horns has been banned in most far-eastern countries, the black market continues to flourish. In North Yemen, a rhino-handled dagger is the ultimate status symbol, and a fine antique can sell for as much as $12,000. Zimbabwe rangers realize they can do no more than stem the tide of this crisis unless the network of corrupt dealers and middlemen, involved in the illegal wildlife trade, is broken. Until then, the desperate battle to save the world’s oldest surviving land mammal from extinction will continue.

— Tony Safford

Screening Details

  • Section: National Geographic Society: A Centennial Celebration
  • Film Type: Documentary Feature
  • Country: U.S.A.
  • Run Time: 52 min.


As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]