Hillary Clinton surprised Tribeca Film Festival goers tonight, making a special appearance during Kathryn Bigelow and Imraan Ismail’s The Protectors: A Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes panel. “Thanks for seeing this remarkable film which brings to reality what we’re up against,” Clinton said. “I first became really focused on the horrific slaughter of elephants when I was Secretary of State. It was clear it wasn’t just a terrible crisis, it was the trafficking that was a lot of bad actors. A militia out of Sudan, Boka Harom. It was used to buy weapons and fund the terrorist activities of [many] groups.”

The Protectors: A Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes, from National Geographic Documentary Films, is a virtual reality documentary short that chronicles a day in the life of the rangers in Garamba National Park. With over 30,000 African elephants dying each year at the hands of poachers, and despite the global outcry over the killings, trafficking continues, the film is a call to action to help the conservation NGO African Parks and end the Ivory War.

Hillary Clinton Tribeca

Clinton continued by saying that she worked with the Clinton Foundation after she left the State department to maximize all aspects, “helping Rangers and the interdiction of who is being bribed to get the ivory out. We worked to support them. Under President [Barack] Obama, I’m proud we passed a near total ban of ivory and proud that the Chinese made a ‘very important announcement’ last year on ivory [trade].”

Encouraging others to support the cause, she said that people can help by going to Outfitaranger.org. “You can help to buy a ranger a better vest, decent shoes to have a better chance.” She also stated that the mission has “three overriding goals. Stop the killing, stop trafficking and stop the demand.”

“There’s a lot that can be done. Part of that is protecting these rangers who are up against some of the most ruthless killers on the planet now. We need a better equipped force. African Parks and other organizations are on the front lines,” Clinton continued. 

During the panel, which happens to be on Earth Day and the day many have participated in the March for Science, Clinton also received a big round of applause when she said, “This Earth Day, we march in part for science.”

“I think Chinese plans are a very important change. [As is the] DNC platform because we wanted people to understand. It’s Earth Day and we are marching in part on behalf of science,” she said. “Large mammals like elephants have a large role to play both in reality and in our imaginations. China had been the number one market, but the U.S. is the second biggest market for illegal ivory. China is going to be a key player, but we are too. Old ivory needs to be busted too.”

Clinton had also tweeted about her appearance at the panel and shared a link to walkinginrangersshoes.com to also donate to African Parks and The Enough Project. African Parks is non-governmental organization that supports protecting elephants in ten African parks. Two of their rangers were killed last week.

The Protectors: A Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes
Kathryn Bigelow

“I’ve been a life-long animal advocate,” Bigelow said during the panel. “After Zero Dark, I became involved more with animal conservation. I found out there was an intersection of animal poaching and terrorism,” adding that she did a short film five years ago. “Last Days of Ivory focused on the demand side of ivory. America is the second highest demand for ivory. So, I began to work at the supply side and looking at the rangers who are doing this extraordinary heroic job saving them from institution. Sadly they pay the ultimate price.”

“I thought shooting a virtual reality would be a great opportunity being in DR Congo, moving within the brush with these gentleman who are moving through the jungle, insects, animals and also the poachers who are very well armed,” the filmmaker continued. “It’s no joke out there. I was introduced to this extraordinary VR director Ismail, who put the audience in a very active experience.”

Bigelow also asked Clinton if there could there be a military component that could be used in training people? – suggesting U.S. military.

“It’s difficult to see how this could be accomplished,” Clinton replied. “African Parks could be supported and enhanced on a partnership basis. This is a very difficult terrain to work on. We gave support in Uganda to Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. That was very hard to do. The Ugandan army took the lead but with American support. It’s a huge expanse of territory. [We] can possibly use drones [for] surveillance, not sure if African Parks is doing that.”

Clinton added that the bottom line is to help these rangers with all kinds of assistance and be willing to work with other countries. “And a few do because they see it as economic benefit through tourism. So you can get some politicians to work with organizations like African Parks and Interpol,” she explained. “It’s hard for the U.S. itself to be involved, but instead to rally other forces within the continent is possible.”

Aside from Clinton, Bigelow and Ismail, the panel also included Andrea Heydlauf and Rachel Webber. The Protectors: A Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes is produced by Bigelow and VR creator lsmail alongside Here Be Dragons, Annapurna Pictures and African Parks.