Impact Updates

The Ivory Game


THE IVORY GAME, a feature-length documentary on the illegal ivory trade, depicts the fight against elephant poaching and wildlife trafficking from Africa to China. For more than 150 days in the field, the filmmakers deeply embedded with intelligence officers from Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Uganda. Being fully immersed with intelligence teams, this critical fight for the survival of an iconic species was brought to the front line. It became clear that the elephant could only be saved if China’s domestic legal ivory trade was ended. As one of the film’s subjects, Andrea Crosta, put it: “The destiny of an entire species is in the hands of one man: the president of China.”

THE IVORY GAME premiered in September 2015 at the Telluride Film Festival and gained wide international recognition. It received a number of awards, amongst which are the Cinema for Peace Award, Jackson Hole’s Best of Festival and Festival Prize,  and Wildscreen‘s best of festival award, the Golden Panda. It was shortlisted for an Academy Award in 2016.

Bringing the film out simultaneously to millions of people worldwide through Netflix was the best way to put the word out loud and clear, that time was running out for the elephants. Executive Producer Leonardo diCaprio‘s and Dr. Jane Goodall‘s ambassadorship on behalf of THE IVORY GAME further raised awareness for the issue. And, shortly after the film’s release on Netflix in November 2016, we received word from credible sources within China that the film was being seen, and that there would be an announcement made by the Chinese government before year’s end.

On December 30th, 2016, the Chinese president announced that all domestic ivory trade would be banned within 12 months. Shortly thereafter, THE IVORY GAME was invited to open the exclusive Beijing Film Festival, and won the award for Best Film. By the end of 2016, all domestic ivory trade in China was banned.




  • Andrea Crosta

    Elephant Action League (EAL)
  • Craig Millar

    Head of Security (Big Life Foundation, Kenya)
  • Elisifa Ngowi

    Head of Intelligence (Task Force NTSCIU, Tanzania)
  • Georgina Kamanga

    Head of Intelligence (Zambian Wildlife Authority, Zambia)
  • Hongxiang Huang

    Investigative Journalist (China)
  • Ian Craig

    Director of Conservation (Northern Rangeland Trust, Kenya)
  • Ofir Drori

    Undercover Investigator (The Eagle Network, Uganda)

Directed by

  • Richard Ladkani

  • Kief Davidson

Director of Photography

  • Richard Ladkani

Edited by

  • Verena Schönauer

Additional Camera by

  • Tobias Corts

    2nd camera
  • Simon Werry

    aerial cinematography

Location Sound by

  • Roland Winkler

Music by

  • H. Scott Salinas

Produced by

  • Walter Köhler

  • Wolfgang Knöpfler

  • Kief Davidson

  • Leonardo diCaprio

    Executive Producer
  • Jennifer Davisson

    Executive Producer
  • Joanne Reay

    Executive Producer
  • Dinah Czezik-Müller

    Executive Producer
  • Paul G. Allen

    Executive Producer
  • Carole Tomko

    Executive Producer
  • Jody Gottlieb

    Co-Executive Producer
  • Adam Del Deo

    Executive Producer
  • Jason Spingarn-Koff

    Executive Producer
  • Lisa Nishimura

    Executive Producer
  • Michael Frenschkowski

    Line Producer
  • Anita Ladkani

    Development Producer

Production Manager

  • Anita Ladkani

Sound Design

  • Bernhard Zorzi

  • Michael Plöderl

Graphics & Animation

  • Felix Geremus

  • Alexander Siquans


Jane Goodall Institute | 5 Jan 2017

Dr. Jane Goodall discusses the film 'The Ivory Game', by Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani. The film is a crucial depiction of the dangerous and atrocious world of illegal trafficking, focusing on Ivory, or "white gold." Demand for Ivory has caused the slaughter of African elephants in record numbers. Filmmakers went under cover for 16 months, infiltrating and documenting the deep-rooted corruption at the heart of the global ivory trafficking crisis.

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Deadline | 3 Jan 2016

‘The Ivory Game’ Wins: Ivory Trade Banned In China Following Netflix Doc’s November Release. Richard Ladkani and Kief Davidson’s Netflix film The Ivory Game is a nail-biting exposé of the ivory trade and the imminent extinction of elephants. It’s certainly a powerful and essential viewing experience, but now, incredibly, the documentary has won the ultimate prize–a ban on the ivory trade in China.

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IndieWire | 21 Dec 2016

Interview: ‘The Ivory Game’ Co-Director Kief Davidson on Elephants, Leonardo DiCaprio and China. The horrific plight of wild elephants is front and center in “The Ivory Game.” Currently streaming on Netflix, Richard Ladkani and Kief Davidson’s Oscar shortlisted documentary — which has been prominently backed by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jane Goodall, among others — offers a ground-level view of the black market trade. Davidson recently sat down at the International Documentary Association film series to talk about the film’s journey and how he styled it as a thriller.

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Netflix Featurette | 19 Dec 2016

From executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio, The Ivory Game is an epic documentary feature that goes undercover into the dark and sinister underbelly of ivory trafficking. Award-winning director Richard Ladkani and Academy Award®–nominated director Kief Davidson filmed undercover for 16 months with a crack team of intelligence operatives, undercover activists, passionate frontline rangers and tough-as-nails conservationists, to infiltrate the corrupt global network of ivory trafficking.

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Variety | 22 Nov 2016

Op-ed by Dr. Jane Goodall: Elephants are one of the most amazing animals on earth, yet unless we get together to help protect them, they could become extinct. Because of us. We all have the power to make a difference and, when we take action, we can have lasting impact. That’s why “The Ivory Game,” from directors Richard Ladkani and Kief Davidson is such an important documentary — it can make all the difference for the elephants and for future generations.

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Esquire | 7 Nov 2016

Review: 'The Ivory Game' explains more than it judges, which makes it much more powerful than the standard hand-wringing environmental documentary.

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Roger Ebert | 4 Nov 2016

Review: “The Ivory Game” is a documentary that plays with the gripping pacing and glossy production values of a suspenseful, international thriller. Unfortunately, the story it’s telling is all too true—and relevant.

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Los Angeles Times | 3 Nov 2016

Review: ‘The Ivory Game’ warning: Elephants will be extinct in 15 years. According to the globetrotting nonfiction thriller “The Ivory Game,” at the rate that elephants are being slaughtered, they’ll be extinct within 15 years. The thought of a world without them is hard to bear, and the investigative film manages to generate a reasonable sliver of hope — and will perhaps inspire activism — while sounding the alarm of dire emergency.

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New York Times | 3 Nov 2016

Review: ‘The Ivory Game’ Follows the Fight to Protect Elephants. After learning that a beloved wild elephant has been slaughtered by poachers, Craig Millar, a conservationist, wonders aloud “how we got to this stage, as a human race, when we just lay waste to anything we value — anything we see just gets consumed.” Still, he vows to fight on. “I don’t know if it’s ever going to make a difference, and if we’re ever going to do enough, but we’ve got to try.”

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The Guardian | 31 Oct 2016

Review: The Chinese government has legitimised and stimulated the ivory trade, leading, as this angry, valuable documentary shows, to the near extinction of a species.

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The Wrap | 2 Sep 2016

Telluride '16 Review: Urgent Documentary About Elephant Killing Is a Roar for Action. An extinction crisis for one of earth’s mightiest creatures, fed by an illegal trade in ivory, is made vividly clear in an advocacy documentary that moves like an espionage thriller.

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Hollywood Reporter | 2 Sep 2016

Telluride '16 Review: Leonardo DiCaprio and Paul Allen helped to produce this stirring documentary about the threat to the survival of African elephants.

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Indiewire | 2 SEP 2016

Telluride Review: ‘The Ivory Game,’ Produced By Leonardo DiCaprio, Is a Shocking Look at an Underground Marketplace.

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Elephant herd from above

In May 2016, Kenya burned 8 tons of confiscated ivory

Ian Craig on an aerial surveillance flight

Hongxiang Huang undercover in Hong Kong

Andrea Crosta investigating the ivory trade in China

An arrested poacher with his bounty

Craig Millar checking on "his" elephants

Soldier watching over an ivory pyre

Netflix Originals presents a production by Terra Mater Film Studios and Vulcan Productions,
in association with Appian Way and Malaika Pictures.