Journalist Laurel Chor Investigates Wildlife Trafficking In New Documentary
Hong Kong journalist Laurel Chor has covered some of the biggest breaking news events of the last few years, from the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition protests to the Australia bushfires of 2020.
In her latest project, Chor takes a lead role in Tigre Gente, a film directed by National Geographic grantee Elizabeth Unger, which documents the illegal jaguar trade across the globe.
The film, which premiered on June 11 at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, has received several positive reviews. Shot in Bolivia, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, Tigre Gente follows investigative journalist Chor and Marcos Uzquiano, the director of Bolivia’s Madidi National Park.
In the film, Chor goes undercover to film the illegal sale of jaguar fangs in Myanmar and China, interviewing a variety of people, including her own family, to examine the rising demand. In Bolivia, Uzquiano leads a team of rangers on the hunt for poachers who are looking to sell jaguar teeth and pelts on the black market.
While the trade of jaguar body parts is illegal in most countries, including China, their fangs are still used in some traditional Chinese medicines. “There’s only a small subset of the Chinese populations that actively buys these things but that’s a large group of people because China is massive,” Unger told The Guardian, adding that she hopes the film will serve as an opportunity to battle “western misconceptions” about Chinese attitudes to wildlife consumerism.
With a decreasing population, jaguars, Latin America’s emblematic big cats, are classified as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a global authority on species status. Factors including habitat loss, contact with farmers protecting their livestock, as well as the illegal trade of body parts has contributed to their decline.
In an interview with Salon.com, Unger described Chor as “a legitimate badass and someone I consider fearless.” She says that Chor is “a serious journalist who is not afraid to tackle tough issues, even at risk to herself and her family in Hong Kong.”
On the day of its premiere, Chor tweeted that it was an honour to be a part of the film and that she was “very proud” to announce its debut. One critic described the film as “a compelling watch—as well as a thoughtful rumination on social responsibility and environmental protection,” while another wrote that Tigre Gente is “a beautiful film about an ugly set of facts.”
View the documentary Tigre Gente (in the USA only), and learn more about Chor’s work