Catalogue: TV - Non Fiction




Every day, silent unrecorded murders are committed in the savannahs, rain forests and oceans of Africa. The victims are animal wildlife.

The result is that numerous animal species slip toward extinction, destroying the ecology of the planet, and in so doing, this comes back to haunt the species that is responsible for the killing in the first place...humans.

It is a world of intrigue and deception, of violence and ruthlessness. Middlemen smuggle rare plants, insects and body parts of animals to merchants around the world like drug syndicates, traffickers and thieves who earn hefty profits at the expense of Earth’s future. The only thing that stands between this wholesale slaughter is the E.S.P.U., the Endangered Species Protection Unit, and this is their story. Today the organisation operates in six countries in Southern Africa and is comprised of 32 highly skilled officers.

Shot on location throughout Africa as well as Yemen, China, Taiwan, the United States, Korea and Europe, E.S.P.U. combines location shots with rare wildlife footage from South African film libraries. 

Many top-level universities’ entomological and botanical departments, along with zoos and research units, knowingly participate in poaching for the sake of owning a rare specimen. From January 1991 to June 1995, 737 criminal investigations resulted in the confiscation of 403 rhino horns, 1045 elephant tusks and 34,098 ivory cubes equating 3,410 tusks. The poachers themselves are mostly unemployed destitute and earn very little for their dangerous task.

Examples of the cases which E.S.P.U. investigates include: the illegal trade of tortoises, gekos and iguanas where smugglers are paid by universities in Germany, the Netherlands and the US, the Cape Town trial of an American known for smuggling elephant tusks, rare birds and African artefacts and a religious group in Zambia as they traffic ivory in order to fund their church.

Every day the officers of E.S.P.U. risk their lives to protect the animals and viewers become eyewitness to the tension, fear and gritty reality of working for the Protection Agency.

E.S.P.U. made its U.S. debut on Discovery Channel's Animal Planet.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Sub Genre: Nature & Wildlife

Year of Production: 1997

Running Time: 13 x half hours

Country: USA

Production Company:AFW / Unapix Entertainment Inc.