How has such a poor country like Malawi been able to make such great leaps forward in protecting its wildlife whilst wealthier countries …

Answer by Rory Young:

A team of rangers, including undercover officers in civilian attire, about to go in and ambush buyers and traffickers in a "sting" operation. No high technology here – there isn't the money – the key is rangers skills in investigations, intel gathering, planning and dogged pursuit and  apprehension..

Let's be honest; Malawi has been hit harder by poaching than many countries. However, although one of the poorest countries in Africa, it is kçalso known for its friendly, hard-working and peaceful people. It has been known for many years as "The Warm Heart Of Africa", a title that suits the beatiful place perfectly.

I was fortunate to live in Malawi as a child. I remember clearly the first time I tried to track lions on my own. I was eleven years old and a pride had passed along the river that ran along the bottom of my aunt's garden on their farm North of Mzuzu, close to the Tanzanian border.

"Farm" was hardly an apt description, although they did grow tobbacco. My cousins and I spent our days chasing around the bush looking for animals and playing with the children from the local villages. My cousins had a variety of pets, including a four-foot African rock python, two tiny grysbok deer, a duiker, a crazy African Wild Cat, amongst others that came and went.

I had spotted the lion tracks while looking for snakes with a couple of tumbuka kids and, whilst I had decided that it would be a damn fine idea to follow them, my friends declared me mad and left. So, off I went.

Fortunately for me I didn't catch up to the lions before it started getting too late and so I turned back and headed home. Thank goodness I did or I most likely would not be writing this now. Anyone who has seen a lion's reaction to  just a child's voice from a game-drive vehicle, or when seeing them through a fence, will know how appealing children are to them, in the worst possible way..

I have many vivid memories of Malawi from my childhood, some sad and many happy. One thing I will never forget is the majectic beauty of the place. From montane forests, to the magnificent lake, to the teeming wildlife. The wildlife is no longer teeming.

I saw a poacher for the very first time in Malawi. He was driving a truck loaded with skins and meat past my uncle's property across the border into Tanzania. I remember the ivory carvers who openly plied their trade on the main street of Blantyre. Even with those signs, I would never in my childhood have imagined the terrible scourge that would obliterate the once mighty herds of elephants that roamed freely.

Many countries in Africa are in this situation, but malawi is different in some important ways. It is saying no to poaching and taking a real stand. Firstly, the country needs tourism. 60% of the country's foreign currency earnings. There are no diamonds, there is no gold, and there is little local industry. Tourism is one of the few ways for the country to earn sorely needed foreign currency.

Secondly, the country and its parks are relatively small. They are not gigantic areas that have just been left to themselves. They can be effectively protected more easily than some of the massive wildlife areas in neighbouring countries that would require legions of rangers to patrol them.

Thirdly, and most importantly, it has the political will. The government, at the highest levels, actually wants to put a stop to poaching, and to teach its people the importance of wildlife. The country recently decided to included teaching in its schools on the importance of wildlife and the reasons that poaching is wrong. Incredible. I recently conducted a training course for the heads of the anti-poaching units for all the parks in the country. At the passing out parade the minister of tourism stood up to make his speech. I almost fell over when I heard it. He openly and honestly listed the failings of his country in the past to protect its wildlife, even listing the decline in numbers of key species. That was nothing though, he then announced that we had uncovered rangers involved in poaching, something we were of course keeping secret from the outside world, and told the gathered crown that they would be made an example of and shown "no mercy". Wow, after all my years in wildlife and conservation and running around  this continent, this was the first time I ever heard a politician speak like this. I was then asked to step forward as he would like to thank me personally for my work and for the support and work of the organizations that paid for and arranged me to be there, Chengeta Wildlife and Lion ALERT.

He shook my hand, and, looking me straight in the eye, he said, "please tell your colleagues that we do not take this for granted and we are going to show the world that we can win this".

I train rangers to locate and arrest poachers and traffickers. Usually it is pretty thankless work and one often has to fight frustration and even depression because of the lack of support and the apathy of governments and even the men. This government however is determined to win and the rangers themselves are second to none.

I heard as a child the stories of the brave men of the King's African Rifles fighting the Japanese in Asia. Nyasaland as Malawi was known in those days was renowned for the bravery and dedication of the soldiers who originated there and served in the two battalions raised by the British to fight in far away places. I have seen for myself why the Malawians were so sought after. They are tough, they are determined, they are hard working and they are brave. they also have an amazing sense of humour, which invariably shows itself when most needed to raise spirits.

Malawi doesn't have money for drones and helicopters. They have realised they have to be clever they have to be willing to do what is necessary, and that is what they are doing. Working with the communities, they have a "revenue sharing system" which gives 25% of revenues from the park to the communities around the area.

I was brought in to train the heads of anti poaching for a very good reason. The training we have developed, under Chengeta Wildlife and Lion ALERT and now with the assistance of the University of Coventry, is primarily pragmatic. We do the best possible with the resources available. It is also effective, no BS, just get it done. During the recent training we actually took down a whole poaching syndicate, with buyers and traffickers and identified several others in their entirety. Rarely do you hear of such successes in countries with much better equipment and funding.

The difference is this; everybody at all levels in the Malawi Department of National Parks and Wildlife is determined to win. From the Minister down to the Director and on down to the men on the ground. There are a few bad eggs but they will be dealt with "mercilessly" I have no doubt, and those wonderful rangers are going to carry on kicking ass because they have the support of their leaders.

How has such a poor country like Malawi been able to make such great leaps forward in protecting its wildlife whilst wealthier countries …

Reviews of: A Field Manual For Anti-Poaching Activities

Answer by Jon Davis:

What Rory Young and Yakov Alekseyev have done with A Field Manual For Anti-Poaching Activities is to create what must be the most all inclusive doctrine for combating the specific problem of international poaching that exists today.

I was shocked at the level of detail in this document and how it addresses so many concerns that apply specifically to the poaching. What I felt reached out to me immediately was that the team correctly identifies that the solution to international poaching won't rely in militarizing the rangers who combat them, but on a holistic approach to combating poaching on all levels, with deterrence as the key. As a veteran of the Iraq war and Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, I see this thinking overused and abused regularly; fund a problem with money and weapons and they will have the power to overcome any obstacle. This is incorrect thinking, often put out by people ill informed of most world problems and relying on mostly legendary accounts of the performance of units such as the Marine Corps and the US Navy SEALs to combat the specific problems these units were designed to overcome. People who don't understand the military don't realize that this approach can not solve all problems, but only those that involve direct confrontation. In the case of poaching, by the time direct confrontation becomes an issue, you've already lost.

What the Field Guide does is lay down an introductory framework for any regional government concerned with the effects of poaching. It addresses all the questions that need to be answered from, "How do we establish contacts with Poaching Networks?" to, "What should our surveillance strategy be?" to, "How do we train our rangers in successfully tracking, stalking and catching poachers in the act?" and dozens more questions that each nation needs to answer for themselves.

I was most impressed by the amount of thought that went into preventative measures as opposed to direct intervention. I thought it was nuanced that a major part of the solution laid in the use of current and former poaching communities to gather information and the structured communication system to channel that information to implementation experts.

The part I enjoyed the most was the analogy that brought the whole thing into perspective. The write up paints a clear image of what modern, even very well funded anti-poaching forces face when dealing with poachers. In the classic story Robin Hood we see a story of poaching funding what might as well be considered terrorist activities. They were heavily outnumbered and outgunned by the King's army, however, the Merrymen were able to routinely evade capture and outwit the Sheriff in his pursuits by utilizing guerrilla style operations that defeated the hardline military approach. When we consider the way that most people solve problems today, be they dealing with insurgency and terrorism to poaching of wild and endangered animals, I very much think the analogy landed. I believe that it makes the case for the development of a complete system to combat poaching rather than just giving untrained and unorganized rangers bigger guns.

What Young and Alekseyev have done is provide a powerful structural aid to those who, as a nation, wish to help solve the problems of the illegal harvesting of wildlife, but as yet, lack the doctrine with which to do it. I believe this is a strong step in the right direction to take the desire to stop poaching to an implementable strategy to do so.

View Review on Quora

Reviews of: A Field Manual For Anti-Poaching Activities

Answer by Logan Forbes:

Written by Rory Young and Yakov Alexseyev, two men wholly qualified to present and teach the skills contained in this field manual. 

Rory, with a lifetime of living and breathing the African bush as well as more than 25 years experience as a professional tracker and guide and Yakov brings his expertise as a retired member of the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations. 

The book’s Preface sets forth the definition of poaching and the far-reaching consequences in statements that are in equal parts sobering and direct: 

“Our own existence clings to the fragile towers made up of the myriad of different life forms with which we share the planet… By destroying individual species, or changing the numbers of a species, we change their impact on their ecosystems and we will eventually cause the towers to crumble and topple, bringing others down in the process…For anyone to believe that humans can exist without healthy natural areas is stupid beyond belief.”
 
Each chapter is laid out in intricate detail that, I daresay, rivals any law enforcement textbook.  The chapter on tracking (complete with diagrams) is a fascinating and utterly engrossing read.  The instruction covers much more than simply determining shoe size and gender and even the lay person will be newly awakened to what they could glean from their natural surroundings.  For professionals in the field, it provides a detailed analysis of how to interpret the smallest detail and incorporate it into an overall strategy.

There’s comprehensive information on mapping out a conservation area complete with instructions on how and when to use graphics effectively, what information is vital and how to convert it all into a resource that will guide the anti-poaching team. 
 
The finer points of apprehension and questioning are delved into in intricate detail, including such familiar techniques as “good cop/bad cop” and a host of lesser known, equally effective, interrogation strategies.

Amidst the abundance of technical information and law enforcement techniques, a somewhat unexpected facet of the doctrine is the humanity with which Rory and Yakov advocate in the treatment of suspects upon apprehension.  Poaching is a supremely complex issue and the manual details the less publicized toll it takes on the human component.

 The technicalities of anti-poaching are enveloped inside proactive and reactive strategies and the authors demonstrate a clear understanding of the need to encompass all variables that make up this devastating epidemic.
    
This field manual provides precisely what it purports to — a comprehensive, direct and simple approach to put an end to rampant poaching once and for all and ultimately lead the world toward a better path.

View Review on Quora

Reviews of: A Field Manual For Anti-Poaching Activities

Answer by Diane Meriwether:

"…collect a leaf broken off by the quarry and compare it to a freshly picked one.  Each time another leaf of the same type is found as spoor it is compared with those previously picked and a freshly picked one. Very quickly it becomes apparent whether the gap is being closed or not." 

It's this level of practical specificity that makes this manual both an interesting read and a much needed guide in the struggle to preserve our natural resources.

Using Robin Hood as a teaching story on how not to proceed, the manual instructs us to remember that whoever loses the people loses the struggle.  Sadly, arrogance and racism have a long tail.

"Investigators must also know they carry the reputation of their agency even into the first meeting with a community leader, so they can often start at a disadvantage through no fault of their own."

Without dwelling on the past, and ever practical, the manual lays out the rules of honorable engagement – be humble, be human, be truthful, be patient, be discrete.

Much of the manual is police procedural – how to tag and control evidence, how to conduct an interview, how to read a crime scene – familiar material for those of us who have ever caught up on a Netfilxed season of CSI until you realize that the crime scene is a group of elephants poisoned at the waterhole or mother rhino with her calf bereft by her side.  

Another portion describes exactly how to read and follow a trail left by poachers in the Central African terrain. Rory and Yakov tell us that a woman poacher will urinate between her tracks, while a man's stream will fall ahead of where his feet are pointing. Perhaps your picture of poachers will shift at that point and you will wonder, as I did, what she looks like, this woman who kills these magnificent beasts.

The manual asks us to notice whether impala have slept on the poacher's tracks or the poachers have walked across the impala's bed, to visualize a spider taking about an hour to recreate their torn web, to squat down and dip your finger in the poacher's blood – pink and frothy if they have been gored in the lung, watery and foul from a wound to the gut.  Notice, the manual says, listen, remember, observe.

I will never practice what this manual teaches.  I will never check for scuff marks in the African dust or rehearse breaching the door of a warehouse filled with tusks but that does not mean the guide is useless to me. 8000 miles away I see an image of a mutilated young elephant and I find it hard to even look. This manual invites me to imagine how much more painful the scene must be when one has trained to observe the natural world so closely that you knows the animal's mother by name. I invite you to read and, then, to act: Chengeta Wildlife – We train wildlife protection teams. -

View Review on Quora

Could legalizing the sale of rhino horns actually save the two African Rhino species?

Answer by Rory Young:

I take a teaspoon of crocodile oil every morning.

Why? It might be good for my health.

Is it scientifically proven to be good for my health? No, not specifically, except perhaps for the fact that it is high in vitamin E.

So why do I take it and what has it got to do with the question?

Well, the reason I take it is because an eighty three year old man I know takes it and swears by it. He trains hard in the gym every evening, he has a thirty-something year old girlfriend, he walks with a ramrod-straight back and his mind is as sharp as a razor. Furthermore this is after having lived a hard life as a game-ranger and catching and breeding crocodiles. He never gets sick. Ever.

I am not harming myself by taking it and I am not harming the crocodile population by taking it. In fact I am assisting the maintenance of the population. How? Well,this brings me to what this has to do with rhino horn.

Nile crocodile numbers had been reduced to critically low numbers. They were facing extinction.

Instead of just trying to protect the last crocodiles, a controversial decision was made in the 1960s to allow them to be farmed.
The system worked by collecting the eggs and incubating them. At two years of age the crocodiles reach their optimum food conversion level and are slaughtered, except for a percentage that are released into the wild.

The result of this system has been the dramatic recovery of the wild crocodile population and the maintaining of a "stock" captive population that can be used to boost numbers in the wild.

A similar argument has been used for zoos. That is that they serve as a reserve of species for later reintroduction into the wild. The problem however is that zoos don't make much money.

Now, let's get down to the question of "farming" rhinos.

Under the laws of many African countries a wild animal on your land belongs to you. The government can declare the species "specially protected"or what used to be known as "Royal Game". This means that it may not be killed. It does still however still belong to the property owner.

In the case farmed wild animals, depending on the country, ownership can be registered.

The argument for the farming is that the animal should still not be allowed to be killed but that it should be legal for rhino owners to "harvest" the horns and sell them.

The biggest supporter and proponent of this scheme is a man called John Hume who owns over 500 rhinos.

John Hume

A rhino horn takes three years to regrow after being cut. At least three kilograms of rhino horn can be expected every three years. The current prices in Asia is more than US$100'000 per kg. That means John Hume can potentially earn at least $50 million per year by harvesting and selling rhino horns.

Of course this doesn't take into account that prices would be depressed if large amounts of legal rhino horn hit the market but it also doesn't take into account the continued growth of the average Asian's disposable income. Most importantly whatever the potential earnings they would be dramatically more than what he earns right now which is zero.

White Rhinos on a Private game farm.

The argument then is that if game ranchers were allowed to harvest and sell the horns they would breed and protect the populations on private land. I believe this is quite correct. Poachers can certainly be controlled on private land with the right funding, especially if they are kept in small fenced areas.

Keeping them in small, well-protected and fenced locations  effectively means they are no longer wild. That has been a common comment by reporters visiting John Hume's rhino population, that they are almost like cows, being fed and unconcerned by the presence of humans.

We can conclude two facts from this. These rhinos are not wild and yes this would allow the non-wild and semi-wild numbers to increase dramatically thus preserving a "stock" of rhinos for re-introduction into the parks and other wild areas at a later date.

What about the wild rhinos then? What effect would the sale of legally harvested horn have on the wild rhino population?

The opponents of this plan say that it will increase demand and allow horn from poached rhinos to be sold openly in Asia and increase demand and therefore increase poaching in the Parks.

What these people don't seem to understand however is that the demand already so massively outstrips the even illegal supply that there is absolutely no way of reducing demand via supply restriction of poached rhino horn.This is simply because the rhinos are being poached so fast that they will be extinct before any small impact on demand can be made.

Furthermore, analysis of poaching levels over the last thirty years has shown increased levels of poaching each time stockpiles of ivory were burnt and legal trade restricted. We cannot control the demand. We can however ensure that revenues are channeled into encouraging population growth and fighting poaching.

Rhino horn is used in various Asian traditional medicines.

I take croc oil because it is legally available and might be good for me. However, others have a blind faith in its healing properties and will take it whether legal or not and will pay whatever they must for perceived health benefits. The same applies to rhino horn.

The speed at which the wild rhinos are being butchered means that dramatic anti-poaching measures have to be taken regardless of whether legal trade in harvested horns is permitted. However, because of the lack of success in reducing rhino poaching to date this cannot be relied on. We have reached the point of drastic measures being needed to reverse the declining numbers. We have now reached the stage where we need to prioritize saving the different rhino species from extinction.

In conclusion, it is my belief that in the case of the rhino the only way to now save the species is for South Africa, which has the vast majority of rhinos left, to allow private game farmers to harvest and sell the horns for profit. I am not in agreement however with allowing the hunting of rhinos.

I have opposed legalizing the sale of rhino horn till now but have no more faith in African governments tackling the poachers properly nor in the international community properly tackling the trafficking of poached rhino horn, or any other endangered species product for that matter.

At the same time, rhinos in protected areas such as National Parks should have their horns injected with the recently developed products that render them useless for Asian medicine.

Injecting Rhinos' horns with non-lethal chemicals on the Sabi-Sabi reserve in South Africa.

Most importantly the poaching war needs to be taken seriously by African government and the trafficking of the horn taken seriously by the international community. It is because the governments are not doing anything to stop the decline in the Parks that we need to look to boosting numbers through legalizing sales in the private areas.

The time has come to be coldly pragmatic about saving these species.

There is a desperate war being fought to save these and many other African species. If you would like to help then please see below:

The animals and the natural habitat pictured above are under extreme threat. The Black Rhino is racing towards extinction. If you would like to help then please see below:

Please visit this blog Quorans For A Cause where amazing people are doing what they can to support the rangers!

View Answer on Quora