Taking Desperate Measures

Four Santa Barbara High Schoolers Debut Elephant Doc

By Sheyla Molho

It isn’t everyday that you find five teenage boys from California interested in making a documentary on, of all things, African elephants.


Thanks to their love for film, four Santa Barbara 17-year-olds—Freddie Weston Smith, Freddy Meyer, Bradley Lonson, and Spencer Spottiswoode—and one 18-year-old university student from Pasadena named Toby Eversole went to South Africa along with the Disney Studios vet team. Once there, they helped tackle the overpopulation of elephants problem in Africa in a somewhat controversial manner: they captured the first vasectomy ever performed on a male elephant!

Exploring other methods besides vasectomies, birth control for female elephants, and translocation, the group found many of the alternatives unsuccessful. Through numerous interviews with authorities and elephant conservationists, no side is left out and all are debated on this divisive issue. Along their journey, the boys even find themselves in one African village coaching the people on how to use a computer.

Surprising for their ages, this isn’t the boys’ first film: Last year, SBIFF premiered their first documentary Border of Hope, Border of Despair, a film about the problems in Thailand and Burma. The success of that adventure kept them going and influenced them to tackle important issues all around the world.

See Desperate Measures: The Dilemma of the South African Elephant on Saturday, January 27, at 7 p.m. in Center Stage Theater and on Wednesday, January 31, at 4 p.m. in the Marjorie Luke Theatre at Santa Barbara Junior High’s Cota Street campus.

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