Poaching is the illegal removal of natural resources. That may sound quite simple; however, it can be a very complex issue. Poaching is undertaken by a variety of different people for many reasons and must be understood within a cultural context.
Right now, organisations often end up latching onto some expensive technology or super-warrior as the magic formula to tackling the issues of wildlife protection. Generally, the feeling is that soldiers are the people for the job, and the troops are being sent in more and more. There are also many programmes where serving and former foreign military men train scouts according to established military doctrine. This is just not the answer.
Most of these troops are sent out and cannot find the "enemy". They patrol around and around without ever even seeing a poacher. This is because poachers, although often skilled fighters, are not conducting a military campaign - and they are past masters at not being found. Conventional military practices do not apply.
In 2014, the African Lion & Environmental Research Trust and Chengeta Wildlife jointly published “A Field Manual for Anti-Poaching Activities”, in both English and French. Written by Rory Young and Yakov Alekseyev, the manual establishes techniques that can be implemented effectively by even the least resourced of Africa’s anti-poaching units (APUs) in the fight against poaching. These techniques focus on proactive and reactive investigation, advanced tracking skills, and effective pursuit and apprehension skills. Poaching prevention is also a key element.
Thanks to generous donors, the partnership has so far been able to send Rory to provide training to APUs in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Guinea, and the results speak for themselves.
The most recent training undertaken has been in Liwonde National Park in Malawi, where an average of 5 arrests of poachers was being made per month. In August 2014, a training programme was undertaken in this Park which included a small number of rangers from each of Malawi’s protected areas. As a result, in Liwonde, arrests trebled to an average of 15 per month in subsequent months.
Throughout 2015 and into 2016, we are returning to each Park to train 30 rangers at each, with those that attended the first session acting as training assistants to Rory Young who leads the training. These rangers will go on to form a dedicated anti-poaching training group to ensure training is a continuous process within Malawi. Rory returned to Liwonde in February, with arrests made during a two-week period of the operations training rising to 33. To put this into perspective, according to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, the average number of arrests of poachers in the Kruger National Park in 2014 was 14.5 per month, and 32 throughout the whole country.
Anti-poaching training conducted in Guinea at the end of 2014 is assisting a 2-year pilot initiative to implement a wildlife protection programme in the country. Funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in partnership with the Republic of Guinea’s Ministry of the Environment, Water and Forests, the aim is to support the Ministry in the creation and application of a new corps of rangers in three of Guinea’s protected areas: Upper Niger National Park, Ziama Massif Biosphere Reserve, and Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve. The pilot programme currently includes 38 officers and 290 rangers, but if successful, activities may be extended to a total of 4000 rangers across Guinea’s protected area network. This is the first-time anti-poaching operations have been undertaken in the country since 1966.
We have been asked to return to Guinea in 2015 to continue training, and have received requests from many other countries for assistance.
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