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Must See: New Documentary Highlights Power Through Wildlife Conservation

'Killing the Shepherd' tells the story of transformation in poaching-ravaged community.

Must See: New Documentary Highlights Power Through Wildlife Conservation

Photo courtesy of Shepherds of Wildlife Society

Perhaps the most critical new documentaries on wildlife conservation, "Killing the Shepherd," set in a remote tribal community in Africa ravaged by poachers, is scheduled for an exclusive digital cinema release through mid-January.

Produced by Shepherds of Wildlife Society, "Killing the Shepherd" tells the story of the positive relationship animals and indigenous communities share from the point of view of the Soli people of Zambia.

The film will be available via from Nov. 27-Jan. 15, after which time it will be released on DVD/Blue Ray, digital rentals and selected online streaming platforms though 2022.

The work of American filmmaker Tom Opre, executive director of Shepherds of Wildlife Society, the documentary continues his work of educating the public on wildlife conservation.

Killing the Shepherd Trailer from Firesteel Films, Inc. on Vimeo.

Opre first visited the Soli people in 2017 and immediately recognized the need to document the amazing transformation that was taking place in Zambia. He believed it was a story that needed to be shared.

"Wildlife, across the world, face an unparalleled threat, the human population tsunami,” Opre says in the film’s promotion. "Wildlife habitat is being destroyed to make way for human food production at an alarming rate. Without indigenous communities being incentivized by gaining positive benefits to conserve their wildlife, diversity of wildlife and entire populations of species may be lost forever. For more than three years, our cameras documented the trials and tribulations of this remote community and their struggle to lift themselves out of poverty. The story has major ups and huge downs, but in the end wildlife populations are rebounding. The people now have hope their future will be bright."

Killing the Shepherd
Chief Shikabeta of the Soli tribe of Zambia. (Photo courtesy of Shepherds of Wildlife Society)

The Story

The Soli tribe was losing its battle for survival. With no food, no jobs, rampant alcoholism, child brides, teen pregnancy, poaching, and little hope for survival, the tribe's chieftaness, a woman of immense strength and vision, refused to accept defeat. She set in place a plan to return her people to the days when game was plentiful, the harvests were bountiful, and her people thrived. She knew she could not do it alone, so she sought help from the Norton family, long-time operators of Makasa Safaris Zambia. This new partnership would change Zambia and its people forever.

Together, they set in place a bold plan to rebuild the Soli community through a mutual commitment to wildlife conservation and active management of the Lower Luano Game Management Area (GMA). Aligned with Makasa Safaris and the personal commitment of Roland Norton and his family, the community adopted a holistic approach to conservation through agriculture and aquaculture, wildlife biology, primary education, policing, and sustainable hunting. The women of Shikabeta were provided grants and interest-free loans to establish small businesses that allowed them to become independent and empowered.


The Norton family and the Soli tribe worked together to introduce fruitful farming practices and established productive fish farms that now provide much-needed protein for the Soli people. They focused on education, established sustainable wildlife conservation practices, and provided opportunities.

"When we first arrived in the Lower Luano in November of 2015, it was like Africa a hundred or two hundred years ago. The people had nothing," Norton said. "They needed our help. Illegal poaching had decimated the wildlife population. The villagers depended on bush meat to eat and to sell for their very survival.”

Through their combined efforts, the Lower Luano is changing for the better. The wildlife populations are rebounding. Elephants, long gone from the Lower Luano, are returning. The change is real; the results are dramatic. Balance in the Lower Luano is returning.

"Killing the Shepherd" has won 20 major awards and drawn positive reaction at 38 film festivals around the world.

Tickets can be purchased online both before and during the initial digital cinema release.

Killing the Shepherd
'Killing the Shepherd’ is now available digitally.

About Shepherds of Wildlife

Western society's disconnect with nature has resulted in human encroachment is destroying wild places and the creatures who live in them. Shepherds of Wildlife Society is a collective of world-renowned wildlife filmmakers, photographers, conservationists, and sports enthusiasts who possess the talent, knowledge and experience to uniquely communicate the impact humanity has on animals and wildlife habitats.

The group's initiatives include:

  • Indigenous filmmaking
  • Scientific research
  • Rural woman’s empowerment (jobs, soft loans & education funding)
  • Anti-poaching programs
  • Education (films in schools, legislative/political education, natural history museum partnerships, social media campaigns)

Learn more about Shepherds of Wildlife Society

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