Have you ever met anybody who was a slave?
Answer by Rory Young:
This man is a slave.
I met him in Mali, in the conflict zone. Look closely at him. Look into his eyes. He is the property of another man. His wife, his children and his grand children are also the property of another human being.
He served me food andon several occasions. I was meeting with a group of Tamasheq and other nobles in the Gourma, a part of the Sahel, where North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa meet.
He was extremely grateful and highly honoured when I asked to take his picture. As a slave he of course has absolutely no social standing and is entirely dependent on the good will of his master for his water, food, clothing, health and even his very life. Yes, traditionally his master has the right of life or death over him. The soldiers, rangers and others with whom I work were fascinated that I would want to take a picture of such a person rather than a noble with his robes, swords and other signs of status and power.
Don’t be surprised, he is not so unusual. There are around 200′000 slaves in Mali, possibly many, many more, and slavery in the region is growing. A recentof slaves being openly sold in markets in Libya sparked apparent shock and horror all over the world. This is a reflection of the worldwide ignorance the actual condition of both the human and natural environments.
I work in the conflict zone as chief instructor of the Malian mixed army-ranger anti-poaching brigade, a project supported by, Wild Foundation, The Canadian Fund for International Conservation and others. This is not a place the NGO’s in big, shiny airconditioned SUV’s will come. Nor is it a place that even the Un peacekeepers or other military are willing to enter, except as part of a fast in-and-out mission by air.
I have gotten to know many men like this man. I know the owners, the slaves and I have gotten to know former slaves. None of these people are shy about discussing slavery and how they view it. I have tried to see it as the people of this region do, so as to understand it.
No man wishes to be a slave. However, like a kidnapped person suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, the slaves identify with their master and, get ready for it, often look at them with love and affection. The slave-owners often refer to their slaves as their “children”. Most could imagine life without chiefs and nobles more easily than they could without slaves.
I have also gotten to know a number of former slaves who have risen through the ranks of the Malian Armed Forces to command men who are themselves from slave-owning families. Most of these men have severed ties with their former owners and have a very surprising perspective. They usually refer to both slaves and slave-owners as “their people” and seldom hold a grudge against their former masters. Whilst they appreciate being free they do not look at their slavery or freedom as a question of right or wrong, but rather as a change from one system to another, or even of their own personal upward mobility.
This is I believe is a key to understanding slavery. Slavery is not a simple question of law or perceived freedom. It is a social and economic system in which status, power and wealth are rewarded with entitlement. To stop the slavery, the entire culture needs to change. The whole system.
Returning home to the modern world is always a greater journey for me than simple transportation. It is always very difficult to get my mind out of that world and into the 21st Century. I cannot help but be fascinated with the many parallels and hypocrisies I see around me when I return home.
People in the modern world are shedding their sense of equality and modesty and openly adoring the unbridled pursuit of wealth, power and status as true virtues. Creativity, knowledge, wisdom and society all take a back seat.
It is as though the slaves are agreeing to be slaves in the belief they may somehow make it out of the pit and to the top of the pile. At least the cultures of the sahel do not pretend to be anything other than what they are.
Imagine spending your entire life being completely mistaken about your own ethnicity.
Answer by Rory Young:
Imagine spending your entire life being mistaken of your own ethnicity.
I was born in Zambia to “white Rhodesian parents” and I was surrounded by racism from a young age. Questions of race and racism have been a constant frustrating issue that I have learned to hate with a vengeance. Some of my own family are unrepentant racists.
I was taught that I came from “the best pioneering Rhodesian stock”. My father was particularly proud of this. I once told him that a teacher had said I was cheeky. His reply was, “Tell her it’s because of your good breeding.” Such extreme arrogance either rubs off on you insidiously over time or violently repels you.
Imagine my surprise then to find out I have black African blood running in my veins…
I have a pretty flat nose, made more so by having been broken early on, but am otherwise very pink with green eyes, and although I am now as bald as a coot, I once had soft straight hair. As a child I was blonde, as were all of my four siblings and all are either blue or green-eyed, but my hair turned black as I reached adulthood and then began to retreat at great speed. One sister has always been blonde and blue-eyed.
Both my parents were very obsessed with their genealogy and both came from “old distinguished families”. Yeah, well mostly it would seem…
My father was always very vocal about about the illustrious history of his father’s family, but not his mother’s… My mother went on very much the same about her mother’s family, but was deafeningly quite about the origins of her father’s family.
As I grew older I began to find the skeletons in the closet most interesting, and eventually, quite recently, absolutely fascinating. I discovered that my mother’s mother’s family had been loyalist Irish Catholics (and Episcopalian when it suited them) and my father’s family had originally been rebel Irish Protestants (and then produced Thomas young, the nastiest of my ancestors, a brutal enforcer of the crown in Northern Ireland – or a great hero depending on which side of the blurry line you sit).
I decided one day to look look my father’s mother’s background and lo and behold! He had mentioned her parents had been “Frenchmen”. He failed however to mention they were also gypsies. This was getting interesting…
I was never particularly curious about my mother’s father’s background. I knew that they had originally been 1820 settlers. These were poor Englishmen mostly who settled in the Eastern Cape in South Africa. I knew that my grandfather’s particular lot had moved to Natal (Zululand), but that was it really. His father had been a mathematics professor and his brother was a physics professor, but other than that they appeared to be relatively uninteresting.
And then one day I was reading about the results of DNA studies on the Afrikaners (South Africans of mostly Dutch, German and French Huguenot descent). A study that had discovered that not only were Afrikaners an average of 7 percent Sub-Saharan African. Some far right wing racists in South Africa desperately try to refute this, and the gymnastics they achieve and the lengths they will go to to do this are quite hilarious. There was even an incident in South African parliament in the early 1980’s, after the release of the first revelatory study of church records which clearly showed an admixture of both African(6–12%) and Asian blood (+-2%), when one legislature punched another for saying “The Van Wyks are black!”
I continued reading, laughing quite heartely, and then there it was, “the descendants of the 1820’s all have sub- African admixture. And then, “most notably those who migrated to Natal”.
At first I was simply too surprised to speak, but then the laughter began and simply wouldn’t stop. The more I thought of all my snotty relatives sitting around waffling about being “good Rhodesian pioneer stock, but failing to mention the fine Zulu coursing through their veins.
I will be taking great pleasure in pointing out to horrified relatives that they are in fact not white after all!
The soldiers mounted up onto their troop carriers and heavy support wagons as we prepared to go out into the Malian desert and carry out our first anti poaching mission just South of Timbuktu. With a sense of urgency we left behind a skeleton guard and drove out of camp onto the potholed road under a scorching sun. A sun which having already been up for a few hours by 9 am, was chastising us for loitering.
We were in Mali as part of the Mali Desert elephant project. This a Wild Foundation project run by Wild Foundation and partnered with Chengeta Wildlife who are providing critical combat tacking tactics for a brand new anti poaching unit. Lead by Rory Young an expert tracker and combat tracking trainer the team is providing ‘in ops’ training to this new unit.
Turning off the road, we passed beneath one of the towering monoliths which…
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Should wildlife charities donate money to poachers' villages for education, food, water and shelter… by @RoryJAYoung
Answer by Rory Young:
Yes, they should assist poachers' villages but not by just donating money. Donating money does not make something shameful. Education and social pressure can make something shameful. Doing so is a solution to ignorance. Assisting villages on the other hand is a solution to the problem of poverty that can also drive people to poach…
There are many reasons that poachers kill wildlife, among them for food, medicine, wealth, protecting crops and even for sport. However, I have only once met someone who claimed to poach because he wanted to wipe out all the animals in an area. He was a notorious poacher in Vwaza Wildlife Reserve in Malawi and boasted that he would kill all the elephants in the park. Unfortunately for this individual, he walked into our camp during anti-poaching ops, and then raised his weapon when ordered to lower it… but I digress…
Solving the problem of poaching is entirely about changing people's behaviour. Arrest and imprisonment will not work on a starving child's father. Sensitization will not work on greed-driven syndicate. The appropriate solution needs to be applied to a specific poaching problem.
Every park has a different mix of poaching activity. In one place it may be driven by poverty on a grand scale and in another it may be primarily driven by ignorance or greed. I use the acronym RESPECT when considering appropriate solutions for a particular protected area.
R is for Rules, Laws and Regulations. Having clear laws and penalties is a basic necessity. That does not mean that certain situations in breach of these laws should not necessitate common sense tolerance. It does mean however, that such tolerance should be a part of the system of justice and not just a random acceptance of the destruction of wild areas via "turning a blind eye". Having a codified set of rules for the protection of wildlife and wild areas can and should ensure that a government, its agencies and its political leadership are obliged to deal with the problem and is the basis upon which policing can be implemented to stop and deter poaching driven by criminal greed.
E is for Education. Most poachers I am involved in apprehending invariably state during interrogation that they know what they are doing is illegal, yet few can explain why it is wrong. They simply think the government is being unreasonable. Education can have a great impact but is a slow process and a long-term solution requiring support at all levels of government and needs to be applied to all demographics to create a change in general opinion.
S is for Social Pressure.
Closely linked to education and the powerful African philosphy of Ubuntu or Munu, social pressure is an especially powerful tool in Africa. Similar to the "Law of Jante", it is a taboo to put yourself above those around you and to go against the consensus. This social pressure can take many forms, especially via the traditional leadership and aims to influence community opinion.
P is for Policing, Law Enforcement and Deterrence.
This is a necessity in all areas and whilst it is most appropriate for greed-driven criminals it is also necessary for all other types of poaching as it provides a deterrent as well as a means of identifying those in need of and assisting those who desperately need help. Even if driven by poverty, poachers still have to know that what they are doing is not an acceptable solution and governments and NGO's need to be aware of the problem.
E is for Economic Incentives and Poverty Alleviation.
It is quite simple. Starving people will kill to eat. I would do the same to feed my children if they were starving. This does not mean that poverty alleviation is the only answer. It is not, people often poach because it is an easier way of obtaining protein or because they simply like bush meat. A person caught poaching for food still needs to be treated with leniency via the justice system in addition to being given whatever assistance is possible.
C is for Community of Man and Nature.
Harmony between human and wildlife is dependent on knowledge, understanding and commitment to protection of nature. Human-wildlife conflict is a major reason for poaching. Imagine a lion had once killed your child or a herd of elephants had destroyed your crops and therefore your means of survival. The overall attitude of man towards nature is what needs to change in order to ensure harmony. Poaching is a problem that begins and ends with people.
T is for Technology, Tools and Infrastructure
From roads to fencing to drones to satellite imagery , it all has a role to play. This does not mean of course that technology is anything but a useful tool in itself.
All of these elements need to come together in a pragmatic, cost effective and practical set of solutions as a doctrine.
If there was any one single element that could stop poaching I would jump at the chance. However, it is simply not the case. It is a complex problem requiring intelligent, well thought out solutions that take into account many factors. Every country is different and every protected area in every country has a different poaching problem.
My work with Chengeta wildlife is an effort to provide realistic solutions that are implemented through support in training to those in authority.
Answer by Rory Young:
“My name is Boetie Van Niekerk, but you can just call ‘Bwana’ my friend”…
I am a South African professional hunter looking to buy ivory or rhino horn. I am arrogant, suspicious, and patronizing. I am also greedy and am looking for serious, long-term suppliers and “if you look after me, give me a good price and no hassles, I will keep coming back from more”. I can of course “buy as much as you can supply and want as much as you can sell me as quickly as possible”.
I use “middle men” or “buyers” to deal with “sellers”. You can’t just approach me directly. First, you talk to one of my junior middlemen who will meet and talk with you at length to establish who you are, what you have to offer and how much you want for it. He is an old toothless wonder with bad body odour but fancy clothes and a new watch and a smartphone. You are impressed by his stories of how “big” his boss is and how he pays too much money but can’t get enough. If he verifies that you are a genuine and serious seller he will then pass you on to one of my more senior, trusted, side-kicks. He will insist on inspecting what you have. That will be a big negotiation in itself because no one trusts anyone. However, after lots of backwards and forwards, and maybe some arguing, it will be done.
It will be necessary to verify who we are too and once we get round to talking about meeting with me to do the sale, we will have a brief chat on the phone, mainly to reassure you that there is a real “bigshot” foreign buyer behind the junior guys and you are not just being set up to be robbed of your ivory.
Eventually, when you are happy and I am happy, we will arrange to meet at a location we both feel is safe. Invariably a place as isolated and quiet as possible, with several approaches by road, a crossroads in a rural farming area is good, enough cover to avoid being seen with the contraband but with a view of the surrounding area. The meeting will of course take place late at night so that any vehicles can be heard or seen approaching from a distance and so that we won’t be observed “doing business”.
When we finally meet both parties will almost certainly arrive late, having had people check the location secretly, to ensure that it is not a setup by rangers or police officers or an ambush by thieves.
When we meet, I of course let my men do the initial talking. They will speak in the indigenous language of the area and, as I don’t understand a word of what is being said, my buyers will repeatedly refer to me as this “white prick” or “this shithead”, so as to make you feel that they are on your side really and want to get you a good deal asap, because they hate my guts. All very reassuring for you. You actually outnumber us too, but not enough to encourage you to true to rob us. You are not sure if we are armed or not.
Eventually, I will get impatient with all the blabbering and will rudely interrupt. I want the stuff and I want to go. It is early morning and I am tired. Let’s get down to business…
I snatch at it greedily when you produce it, inspecting it and clearly knowing my business, and you hungrily eye the bulging bag at my feet. After weighing it and examining it we talk price. I argue that I already have lots of ivory as I have been buying in other areas but eventually we agree on what I believe is a good price, as my middlemen have told you I will, but which you all know is outrageously high.
Money changes hands, the ivory is handed over, I mention one word, and suddenly your world takes a dramatic and terrible turn for the worse. You are suddenly on the floor with a boot on your neck and the muzzle of a gun in your face. Your hands are pinned. There is shouting, bright light and other people have appeared from nowhere. You catch a glimpse of your friends trying to run but being slammed to the floor by three men who have appeared from.
I am in reality neither South African nor am I a criminal and, although I really am Caucasian, I do actually speak one indigenous Bantu language and can understand a lot of what is being spoken in others. I was born in Zambia, raised mostly in Zimbabwe, and have spent most of my adult life in wildlife and rural tribal areas in Central and Southern Africa.
I am an anti-poaching and anti-trafficking trainer and advisor. My work is done “in-ops”, so I show the rangers how it is done by actually doing it with them on the job. Once I am happy that they have understood the theory in the classroom and have shown themselves proficient in practical exercises, we go out and find and arrest traffickers and poachers, taking down whole networks if possible.
Going undercover amongst traffickers is extremely dangerous. It is frightening and requires a steady nerve, the ability to really believe, at least temporarily, that you really are a criminal and to play the part believably. It also requires excellent teamwork, quick and effective planning and, above all, incredible trust and confidence between the men working undercover and their support team.
It is never the size of the threat nor its intensity that I find worrying or reassuring. It is the level of control that I and my fellow rangers or trainees have in any given situation.
We are not adrenaline junkies looking for the next big fix. In fact all of the instructors whom I work with and all of the experienced and properly trained rangers who participate, abhor any unnecessary risk-taking or recklessness. An experienced officer knows that to be effective, to stay alive and healthy and avoid disruption to the community and environment, which he needs to get the job done in as professional a manner as possible.
Within the parks, operating on good intelligence, with well trained, experienced and committed officers, in well planned operations, whilst there is always an inherent risk, it is both understood and prepared for as much as possible. We are also on “our turf” and know the terrain.
Undercover work on the other hand, is, as far as I am concerned, the most nerve-wracking type of work I have done. In the areas I work, there is very little or no technology available to make our work easier. We often end up sitting alone with criminals and out of comms with our fellow rangers. Often this is necessary and deliberate as we need to build trust.
The worst is when a tip comes in at short notice and there is little time to reconnoitre, investigate or plan. Such missions are only undertaken when an experienced team is in place. They can easily go wrong and we occasionally find ourselves pursuing armed individuals in a vehicle or on foot.
Often, communities or syndicates will be closed to outsiders and we have to carefully work out who is who, and how we can break into the circle. That can take a lot of time and requires a lot of patience. We will send in men to try and gather information, identify possible informants and try to understand who is doing what, why, when and how. I do not like sending men into such situations but often we have little choice. We try to make it as safe as possible by ordering them to withdraw as soon as there is the slightest suspicion or aggression towards them. We will hide teams at strategic points around the areas, both concealed and undercover to move in if necessary.
Although this type of work is stressful and dangerous, it is also exciting and, most importantly, it is highly effective. Along with running informants and interviewing suspects it is one of the best sources of intelligence and regularly results in successful operations.
Whilst I personally dislike ad hoc undercover ops in urban areas, I absolutely love pseudo operations in rural areas. This is when officers form fake poaching gangs and pretend to operate in an area, moving out of a park with (actually seized) contraband, weapons and dressed and behaving like any real poaching group. In some parks areas where the vegetation is very open, this is sometimes one of the most effective ways of getting close enough to attempt an interdiction.
Oh, and don’t worry that I may be letting the cat out of the bag by telling you all of this… Undercover and pseudo ops cause chaos for the poachers just by everyone knowing they are happening in an area. No one knows who they can or can’t trust and talk to. No one can approach anyone new to sell something. No one can ask for assistance from local people or even from other poachers…
Our work is funded through donations toWe are having unparalleled success on the ground, working with different African governments and regional organizations. The work is tough. Rangers have to be able to do everything from undercover work to tactical tracking to crime scene investigation and much more. We train them in a comprehensive methodology that we develop and we train them. We help those officers who need the help the most, not just the “celebrity” conservation areas. If you would like to help support us, know more about what we do or share our efforts with others please visit
The following is a true story.
I bought a bicycle.
I live in the Netherlands now, and “when in Rome do as the Romans do”, so I bought a bicycle.
I didn’t just buy any rusty old tingalingaling thing, I bought a mountain bike. Yes! I need to stay fit and strong because in the real world I’m an anti poaching ranger! I can’t let myself get all flabby and anaemic looking like some of the apparitions I have seen lurking around this place. I need to remain lean, agile, ready for action! I must buy a mountain bike ride it far, hard and fast, up and down as many dunes and dykes as possible. Through forests! Over streams! Through Amsterdam! (Well maybe not through Amsterdam, I’m not suicidal)
So, I was determined to put all my effort into getting from A to B as quickly as possible, on my basikoro, dressed to blend in with the natives, and determined to show them how a real man from Africa rides his bicycle. I really was sure that every self respecting bush cyclist back home would be suitably impressed with my efforts. I mean I’m not carrying double beds or entire banana plantations on the back like they like to do, but I have a good frown on my face, I go like dammit and I make sure I sweat like I would on a hot day in the Zambezi Valley.
And then despite all this effort, cost and psyching up, my whole dream soured and blackened into a sad and depressing nightmare. My vision was shredded by a cruel happening.
An old grey-haired man on what looked like a girl’s bike overtook me.
I drew on my reserves, pulling my spirit back from the great abyss and recovering from my shock. I would not let such a disaster happen to me. I changed gear, leaned forward, gritted my teeth, narrowed my eyes and went for broke…
I pedalled like the devil himself was on my tail. I tried harder and harder, peddling faster and faster, putting every last bead of sweat into catching him, my thighs aching with excruciating pain, the blood pounding in my ears, my breathing loud with the terrible effort I made. And still he moved further and further away.
I failed. I had let myself down. I let down the reputation of all African rangers with my pathetic performance. It was tragic. The old man slowly disappeared into the distance, sitting smartly upright, back perfectly straight, clearly putting in no effort whatsoever. And then to totally destroy whatever little pride I had left, I smelt the smoke from his pipe wafting in the air around me. He had been achieving this tremendous speed on a girl’s bike whilst smoking a pipe and expending no effort whatsoever.
I didn’t tell my wife. I didn’t share it with my children either. No one. It was to much.I kept this worrying secret to myself and instead lay awake at night wondering what had happened to me. How had I lost all strength in such a short time? How had I allowed these lanky, blonde-haired town-dwellers who live on cheese to sap my strength and destroy my self esteem. They had somehow shown how wrong my certain pride in myself and my kind had always been…
I could not give up. I would not give up. I reassured myself that my muscles had just not done such work for many years and I had probably not organized my equipment properly. I would return!
I raised my saddle, readjusted its angle and raised my handle bars too. Oil onto the chain, better clothes with more room for my legs to achieve a better range of movement, a high energy, low volume meal, and I set off once more. I would be fearless. I would give my all. I kissed my wife and my children goodbye, ignored their puzzled expressions and went once more unto the breach!
My pace was good. Humming a powerful martial tune helped as I was sure it would.
I passed a couple of teenagers with school bags, neatly zipping close by, my incredible speed apparent from the wind created by my passing. It was thrilling. I was back and I meant business…
I passed a group of pre-schoolers with teacher. They didn’t stand a chance. The power was mine!
I looked ahead for a worthy opponent. Maybe another man on a mountain bike or even someone on a racing bike, dressed in tight-fitting clothes. I would have my revenge and restore my honour!
And then it happened.
The sweet-looking, grey-haired old lady overtook me, flying past at a speed that I knew immediately I could never hope to match.
I was a broken man. Far from home. No pride. No more self respect…
I dismounted sadly and pushed my beautiful, shiny machine towards my destination, wondering what would become of me, a man with no more self respect, no strength, a man who could not even keep up with old women.
I pushed my bike into the line and squeezed it into the rack, realizing as I did so that the bike next to it was just like the one the elderly dear had been riding. I was amazed. It was massive. I mean massively made, an exceptionally heavily built frame and large chain and hubs. Strange, large hubs. A strange metal box under the carrier…
Aidan And The F-Word
Aidan: What’s the F-word Mama?
Marjet: Ask Papa. [Close escape look of relief on her face]
Me: You don’t need to know what the F-word is Aidan. [Worried look on face – knowing that no matter how this is handled it will inevitably end in disaster]
Aidan: But everybody knows what the F-word is except me and I’m six now!
Marjet: [Hides laugh with coughing sound]
Me: [Stern glance at Marjet] You’re not allowed to use dirty words and should just stay away from people using dirty words Aidan.
Aidan: But how will I know if they are using the dirty F-word if I don’t know what it is? […Sob]
Marjet: Good point… [Trying not to smile]
Me: Okay Aidan, come and sit down with Mama and me.
[All single file into room and close door… open door again and wait for Astrid to exit… all sit down in silence]
Aidan: [Expectant look]
Marjet: [Trying to keep a straight face]
Astrid: [Little face peeping through outside window]
Me: Ahem… [Stern expression]
Aidan: Are you going to tell me what the F-word is? [With a monumental look of expectation and excitement on his face]
Marjet: [Covers her face with her hands and makes choking sound]
Me: Yes Aidan. The F-word is **** and you are not allowed to use it and if you hear anyone using it you walk away.
Aidan: [Silence… confused look on his face]
Marjet: [Waiting for Aidan to say something]
Me: [Waiting for Aidan to say something]
Aidan: That’s it? [Looks at Marjet then looks at me]
Marjet: Yes [Looks at me]
Me: [Looking at Marjet, then Aidan and then frowning through window at Astrid who vanishes]
[All leave room, with Aidan still looking confused and disappointed with the uninteresting sounding mega-ddirty word, and carry on as usual…]
Two Days Later In The Car…
Aidan: I can’t remember what the F-word is!
Marjet: [Puts face in hands again]
Me: You will recognize it if you hear it and can walk away Aidan.
Aidan: [Quiet weeping…]
Marjet: [Tortured sounds coming from behind hands]
Me: No need to cry my boy, you would remember it if it was important!
Aidan: Is it “Dush”?
Marjet: [Gurgling sound from behind hands]
Me: No, it is not “Dush” my boy.
Aidan [Quiet sob]
A Day Later On A Crowded Amsterdam Tram…
[Aidan has been unusually quiet and pensive for 24 hours]
Aidan: ****! [Shouted at the top of his voice with a huge smile on his face]
Tram Passengers: [Varied looks of shock, accusation and disgust]
Marjet: [Frozen look of horror – turns red with embarassment]
Me: Aidan! [Entire tram looks accusingly at me]
Astrid: [Falls down laughing]
[Whole family flees tram at next stop – no ice-cream for Aidan who doesn’t care because now he can remember the F-word]
Post by Rory Young:
Something To Lighten Things Up
Answer by Rory Young:
The Brutal Reality That No One Wants To Face… Welcome to my world…
There are many horriffic ways to die. However, few are so common as what you will see in the following pictures.
I took the first series of shots last week whilst on an area reconnaisance patrol in one of Malawi's National Parks. It shows a ranger triggering a large home-made gin trap. One of the men under my command just missed stepping on it as he was focused on flank security for the tracker nearby.
The tracker amazingly spotted it from behind and to the right from a distance. Tracker-scouts are trained not to walk on game trails for this reason, as well as to not leave signs of their presence for poachers to see. The picture below that shows what one of these traps did to a baby elephant.
You can see in the above picture how well concealed these terrible devices are.
In this picture the ranger pushes on the trap with a stick.
In the above shot the trap is triggered. Look at the size of it compared to the rangers ankle/leg.
Now look at what one of these sick machines did to this poor creature. It survived for days in agony with sepsis streaming through its system before a vet saw him and after trying to see what could be done, asked a friend of mine mercifully put him out of his misery.
These horrible contraptions are equally a threat to the rangers. Some are deliberately intended for elephants. They are huge and chained to large leadwood trees. Stepping on them will simply remove your leg at the knee. The smaller one such as that in the picture will destroy the bones in your leg. We have no helicoptors waiting to swoop in an pick us up and these areas are inaccessible to vehicles. The only way to get a wounded man out is by carrying out through swampy ground and then boat. At least a day.
I am lucky, I at least have insurance, thanks to Chengeta Wildlife. Most of the rangers don't. Being injured can also mean financial ruin for them and their families.
Here is another terrfying, slow and agonizingway to die.
A wire noose round your neck slowly strangling then loosening over and over until eventually it tightens enough to cause you a slow and painfull final strangulation.
These wire snares are not only good for strangulation though. Here are some more shots of lions dying from starvation because they are caught by wire or by infection or loss of blood.
Caught by the leg.
Caught round the chest.
Maybe these are really not painful, sickening or frightening enough. In which case there is having your horn hacked out of your face while you are still alive…
I guess I better stop there. Those who have complained I have been spammy in trying to gather support to stop this holocaust might be offended…
To those who have tried to spread the word or who have even just told someone else that there is a tragedy happenng or simply acknowledged it, thank you. To the men and women I work with in the field and to those who struggle on our behalf to find the money, I love you all.
I am so, so tired right now of seeing scenes like this in real life.
Post by Lisa Groeneweg:
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
Post by Rory Young:
A pin for a life.
Would you suffocate and starve your own children or let them be murdered?
That is exactly what you and I are doing by letting elephants and other “keystone” species race towards extinction.
I can certainly understand that many people wll imagine that I am exaggerating as this catastrophe is belived by pretty much everyone to be very distant. I am not exaggerating at all and I will explain…
We need to stop this insanity now for the sake of our children and our children’s children. (Photo: Rory Young)
African, Asian and Forest Elephants are all amongst the most important “keystone species”. Their size and power combined with their eating habits mean that they literally shape their environment, “gardening” the forests and other habitats they live in, keeping the entire ecosystems healthy.
Forest elephants at Dzanga Baie in Central African Republic. (Photo: Rory Young)
These ecosystems, from the Congo Basin rain forests and the tropical and sub-tropical woodlands of Africa to the forests of South-East Asia are dependent on elephants “gardening” them.
Rain forests alone directly supply 28% of the world’s oxygen and are a key element in keeping our climate stable. They are only one of the habitats of which a large part are dependent on elephants to keep them healthy. Does anyone really believe our world could survive with a bit less oxygen in our atmosphere? Unfortunately not. Without healthy air we all, humans and animals alike, get sick and we die. Good luck trying to live a healthy life breathing even slightly polluted air.
Elephants are the largest frugivores on earth. Just as insects, bats and birds are critical to pollination, elephants are extremely critical to seed germination and dispersal. They have very poor digestive systems yet eat a huge variety of fruits and cover vast distances. The result is a major proportion of the different tree species having their seeds widely dispersed after being planted in a nice pile of elephant poo.
Other animals and plants are dependent on elephants opening up areas for them to access. I was recently in a park in West Africa where elephants are now extinct. The first thing that struck me was how impenetrable the forest now is. In a healthy forest ecosystem there is a maze of game trails and clearings where other animals and different species can move about, or young plants can gain a foothold…
All of this adds up. When we destroy the pillar of an ecosystem, we create a terrible domino effect.
There are now no elephants in 95% of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s forests. The DRC has the bulk of the Congo Basin rain forest. Recent studies have revealed that the African rain forests are now “browning”. No one has the faintest clue how badly that could affect us. However, no one is denying that it is a disaster of giant proportions. No one amongst those who even know about it of course..
We are heading for catastrophe. Add up all of the other areas where elephants are key to a healthy ecosystem and the situation is chilling.
Non-elephant (Photo:Rory Young)
This is not even taken into account when it comes to discussions on the effects on climate of man’s “progress”. We have yet to discover what the results of this disgraceful and stupid failure on the part of Africa, Asia and the international community will be.
It doesn’t stop there. The disaster only begins with climate change. The effect on agriculture and the economies in Africa will be devastating. The Sahara is already moving South, causing starvation and inter-ethnic conflict never before seen on this scale.
People are on the move and every year the numbers living in extreme poverty are rocketing. Those desperate people are prime candidates for recruitment by the number of terrorist and rebel groups proliferating rapidly across the continent. These groups are getting stronger and more popular by the day.
Has everyone forgotten 9/11? Does everyone believe they can contain extremism militarily? I guarantee you that unless we put a stop to the unfolding chaos, it will become, over time, far, far worse than ever before. This really is a global village in every way.
Welcome to the future. (Photo: National Geographic)
These masses of hungry people are also driving the bushmeat trade. The unprecedented Ebola epidemic this year was only one aspect of a dire warning. There were outbreaks in three completely different parts of Africa; West Africa (Guinea etc.), Central Africa (D.R.Congo) and East Africa (Uganda). This is the habitat of elephants. As we are wiping them out and raping their habitat, we are releasing unknown biological weapons on ourselves.
Refugee family fleeing inter-ethnic killing in CAR (Photo: Rory Young)
We are in a total war against ourselves and have not yet realized it. The world’s response has been less than pathetic. We are trying to fix the problem as it was, not as it is, let alone what it could be.
Here is the key to the problem and the solution. We are not separate from or independent of our environment. We are a part of it and are dependent on it being healthy. The elephant’s decline is not just the loss of a beautiful species, it is a reflection of the loss of the elephant’s environment, and if we lose the elephant’s environment, we will lose our environment. We cannot fix the looming sixth extinction just recently prophesied by scientists (USA today article) once it has happened:
The loss and decline of animals around the world — caused by habitat loss and global climate disruption — mean we’re in the midst of a sixth “mass extinction” of life on Earth, according to several studies out Thursday in the journal Science.
One study found that although human population has doubled in the past 35 years, the number of invertebrate animals – such as beetles, butterflies, spiders and worms – has decreased by 45% during that same period.
“We were shocked to find similar losses in invertebrates as with larger animals, as we previously thought invertebrates to be more resilient.” said Ben Collen of the U.K.’s University College London, one of the study authors.
Although big, photogenic species, such as tigers, rhinos and pandas, get the bulk of the attention, researchers say it’s clear that even the disappearance of the tiniest beetle can significantly change the various ecosystems on which humans depend.
“We tend to think about extinction as loss of a species from the face of Earth, and that’s very important, but there’s a loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which animals play a central role that we need to pay attention to as well,” said lead author Rodolfo Dirzo of Stanford University.
“Habitat destruction will facilitate hunting and poaching, and species will have difficulty in finding refuge given land use change and climatic disruption,” added Dirzo.
We cannot live without healthy wild areas. The cities we live in are not isolated little bubbles that exist without dependence on the rest of the world, they depend entirely on the supply of food and other resources that originate in the warzone that are our last wild places. Instead of interacting in harmony with the environment they need to sustain themselves, they are becoming out of control monsters, with ravenous appetites, sucking up resources and the sucking up of those resources is . The loss of the elephant will signal the beginning of the irreversible loss of our world.
This is not something I have heard or read about. I have seen all this happening with my own eyes. In the last year alone I have seen the inter-ethnic butchery in Central Africa on two separate trips there. I have spent six weeks in Guinea at the height of the Ebola outbreak. I have seen the slaughter of elephants with my own eyes over and over and over, all over the continent. I have watched the forests change over my entire life time. It is all very personal and in my face for me right now, and it is going to all get very personal and in your face for everyone else’s too, very soon.
If we cannot save the elephant then we cannot save ourselves.
If you are interested in avoiding the creation of hell on earth then please visit Take a Stand for African Elephants and Rhinos or Chengeta Wildlife or Quorans For A Cause
Post by Christine Leigh Langtree:
My Frugal Family…
Post by Ellen Vrana:
Help Goose Save The Elephants
Is it ever justifiable to shoot on sight? Is this a war? If it is then who exactly is the enemy?
I cannot think of any question that I have to consider more carefully, where my opinion, recommendation, advice or actions could have more tragic consequences if I am wrong.
I have over the years had to make the decision during anti poaching operations of whether my actions would be legally and morally justifiable. More recently however, I have advised governments on when, how and if their rangers, investigators and military can shoot, and the tactics that should be used against poachers in the field and I have trained many anti poaching trainers, leaders and rangers in tactics for dealing with poachers, showing them how by undertaking actual operations as part of their training.
The recent events in the United States, where the country is torn apart by the question of when it is acceptable to pull the trigger, should remind everybody of the importance of considering such a questions extremely carefully. Flippant answers to such questions are irresponsible at the very least.
The recent devastation of wildlife populations across africa, in particular black and white rhinos, and african and forest elephants also means we desperately need the most effective policies and strategies for dealing with poaching. Those need to be both morally and legally justifiable as well as effective. They also need to be politically acceptable, something that is incredibly difficult to achieve.
So, who are we going to kill?
Here is a picture taken by a friend in Central African Republic last year. It shows three children removing meat from the carcasse of a poached forest elephant. So, which poacher would you shoot first? The little girl sitting on the elephant carcasse, or the boy doing the butchering? How about the little girl on the right? She is armed with a machete…
Children butchering poached elephants at Dzanga Bai in Central African Republic.
These children were locals from the area of Bayanga in Central African Republic who accompanied a group of Sudanese poachers who had travelled from Sudan accross the CAR, an area twice the size of Texas, to massacre an entire herd of thirty six rare forest elephants. They were present at the killing and were given the meat by the Sudanese in return for showing them where to find the elephants. Therefore, according to the law, they are poachers. The same children will participate in killing animals if told to do so and will not hesitate. They are hungry, desperate and terrified of the men giving the orders.
Such poaching groups rarely restrict their activities to killing elephants. They are frequently employed by the Séléka and other rebel groups as mercenaries. They also engage in large-scale banditry, blocking roads and then looting, raping, kidnapping and murdering. They have taken part in the atrocities in Darfur and are recognized as terrorists.
Sudanese Séléka mercenaries, typically equipped. When not hired by rebel groups and certain pariah governments they spend their leisure time poaching and raiding in iEastern and North-Eastern CAR.
So are they “just poachers” or are they an enemy that needs to be destroyed? They often move in groups of up to one hundred and are mobile and well equipped, with vehicles and camels, and are armed with assault rifles, propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and often even anti aircraft cannons and armoured vehicles at times. They are a small army. However, they are also poachers. When they encounter law enforcement officers or any perceived threat to their activities, they not only open fire, but will also aggressively pursue the law enforcement officers/rangers/soldiers and will even direct revenge attacks against any nearby civillian settlements. They address the local people as “slave”, which gives a good idea of their mentality.
Can or should we define such people as poachers? Should they fall into a different category? They will certainly not surrender if approached by rangers. Yet we have to be aware that they will be accompanied by others who, although engaged in criminal activities, may be coerced or bullied into participating. Any plans to deal with these groups have to have developed tactics for tackling the worst of these while protecting the innocents amongst them. That is a very difficult task. Perhaps they should be defined by their worst crimes? Ethnic cleansing, murder and slavery. They are enemies of the country and therefore should they not be treated as such and fought as military invaders?
Who poaches, what they poach,why they poach and what they are prepared to do to attain their goal varies enormously. In anti poaching and anti trafficking operations that I have participated in in West, Central, East and Southern Africa it is always different, however, there are certain obvious constants. Most important of which is the clear difference between poaching for commercial gain and subsistance poaching. All too often the poachers themselves are from similar backgrounds and very often motivated by poverty. The great difference though is that in the case of commercial poaching, whether for ivory or meat, there is always someone behind the scenes making buckets of cash out of the trade and it is these people who are the most culpable. When the poaching is an organized criminal activity the whole syndicate needs to be dismantled and broken up. Killing the poacher in the field is just cutting off one of the Hydra’s heads. The beast itself must be destroyed.
Subsistance poachers in poverty stricken areas just cannot be dealt with in the same way as commercial poaching gang members. A subsistance poacher is often both more desperate, driven by hunger, and less culpable as he has limited choices. If we are truly going to stop poaching, then we need to look as seriously at helping these people find other means of survival as at apprehending and punishing them. These people are also the most likely to be deterred by a shoot on sight policy. To shoot starving people would be an appalling crime.
Here is another picture showing women and children we apprehended early this year being escortied out of the protected area. They were part of a group of over forty people poaching buffaloes by shooting into the air and shouting so as to herd them into long lines cable snares. All those who were unarmed were released immediately after interviewing them and taking statements. Sadly, there were both armed women and children in the group. This was a mixture of commercial and subsistance poachers. Commercial poachers came into the area and offered a share of the meat to villagers in return for participating. Should we have shot those women and children on sight?
Women and children apprehended as part of a large-scale poaching operation being carefully walked out of an area for release under guard to ensure their own safety as well as the rangers in case of signalling to other armed poachers.
What about mistakes?
Here is another scenario. I was prepared to shoot the man in the picture below. He was armed and was located at a position to where we had just pursued a group of poachers. As you can see, he is not in any way dressed as a ranger. He is wearing a red T-shirt and shorts and is barefoot. My team and I were convinced that we had one of the poachers in our sights.
The man was actually a ranger. He was part of a team in a boat positioned to cut off any attempt by the gang we were trying to outmanoevre, by cutting off any attempted retreat across a large river. The boat team had encountered the vessels used by the poachers to access the park. These poachers had laid fish nets before moving inland to poach big game. Their intention and past MO was to sell ivory, meat and illegal fish. They had large boats and were well equipped by a backer who expected to make good profit on all the different contraband. If they didn’t get lucky with ivory or meat, they would at least return with four boats full of illegal fish. Our ranger had changed his shirt on encountering the nets as it is dangerous to have buttons when working with nets.
He had swapped his uniform bush shirt and trouser for the soccer shirt and shorts and because he didn’t want to get caught in a net and drown and he needed to wade through the water and mud to get to the bank where he and his comrades hoped to intercept the team we were driving towards them. He had also removed his boots.. The rangers are not equipped with radios and instead use their personal cell phones to communicate (and pay for the air time out of their own meagre salaries). Unfortunately this was a spot without cell coverage and he was unable to advise that he had changed clothing and position.
We spotted him behind a large termite mound from a distance and prepared to shoot him if he raised his weapon to shoot at us. He had made a mistake. If there was a shoot on sight policy in place he would have been history as soon as he had been seen by our team. We shouted at him to drop his weapon.
The ranger in question believed we were shouting at a poacher on our side of the termite mound that he could not see. Fortunately he did not raise his weapon and instead, realising that we might not recognise him, backed away, raising his weapon above his head with two hands.
We immedaitely saw from its outline that it was an M16, something the poachers do not have access to in that area, and lowered our own weapons.
There is absolutely no doubt that ranger would have been riddled with bullets from the team if a shoot on sight policy existed. He would be dead dead dead. His children would be fatherless. The rangers would be demoralized. The poachers win.
Is a shoot on sight policy effective?
Congratulations! You just shot dead your best source of information! That is exactly what happens when a poacher is shot dead. Any opportunity to find out who is behind the business is gone.
To really stop poaching in an area it is necessary to cripple the whole illegal operation. It is a complex crime, requiring many participants and numerous steps. People have to fund the expedition. Someone has to supply weapons and ammunition. The poachers need to be transported, with all their kit to the area, sometimes guided in. Porters as well as poachers/shooters are needed to carry the ivory and meat. Officials, such as police officers, customs agents and even rangers have to be paid off. Different steps require different specialists, including shooters, buyers, smugglers, financiers and so on and on.
To effectively cripple poaching activities in an area, pressure has to be applied at all steps and to all the different individuals involved. A poacher is not going to poach if he has no ammunition for his weapon, cannot pay porters and has no one to supply and has his own ass in a jail..
By shooting dead all the poachers instead of professionally and legally questioning them to find out details of who is doing what, where and when, the authorities play into the hands of the brains and money behind these crimes. A dead poacher means nothing to the people who sent him other than they may have to pay a few nickels out of their millions of profits to send another one…
Killing professional rhino and elephant poachers will certainly deter some. However, will it deter enough to drop the levels of those willing to take on the job enough to reduce poaching activity at all in an area? I’m afraid not. It may temporarily deter gangs from a particular area, in favour of easier pickings, but it has not worked as an effective deterrent against rhino poachers. The first country to issue order to shoot on sight and to indemnify rangers against prosecution or civil suits in the courts was Zimbabwe in 1989. Rangers had already killed 89 poachers in just one area of the country, in just a few years, before the shoot on sight order was given. After the go ahead was given, more poachers died and more and more came. It failed. It was clear that for every poacher who was killed another ten were ready to take his place.
So, who really benefits from a shoot on sight policy?
Killing poachers, rather than arresting them, benefits one group more than any other and that is the people who send them to poach. It also benefits the people who supply the weapons and the ammunition, and the equipment, the transport and so on. Instead of the whole criminal enterprise being brought down, the poorest and usually least educated of the criminals is silenced. He is easily replaced.
When is shooting justified?
In defense of human life. In the case of the Sudanese brutes I mentioned earlier, they need to be defeated militarily to protect the population and resources of the country. That is clearly justified warfare. That situation does not apply to a poacher working for a criminal organization. Both ethically and objectively it is important to capture him. Many countries in Africa, especially Central Africa, no longer differentiate between terrorists, bandits and rebels/terrorists. It is unnacceptable to treat subsistance poachers as terrorists.
Is it realistic to capture, interrogate and imprison poachers, rather than shoot them on sight? Is there really an effective way to control poaching in a given area?
The tactics necessary to shoot a poacher without putting the ranger’s life at unnecessary risk are virtually the same as those necessary to apprehend a poacher. Poachers cannot be apprehended in pursuit, they have to be ambushed or surrounded and surprised. Rangers killed by poachers have usually invariably been trying to catch them or attack them in pursuit from the rear and have themselves been ambushed.
Our organization specializes in developingfor safely investigating, locating and apprehending poachers and traffickers in the field. We train rangers to use these methods to as safely as possible and to use the information gathered from pro active and reactive investigation to bring down whole sysndicates. We have trained over 100 instructors, investigators, unit leaders and rangers in the last year and have succesfully taken down whole syndicates and entire networks as part of the in-operations part of our training. We have worked with organizations this year such as UNOPS, The European Union and different National wildlife and forest departments, military special forces and law enforcement units.
Officers learning how to age tracks so as to ensure not approaching poachers too closely from the rear.
We teach these organizations not only how to coordinate tracking, observation and ambush teams to apprehend poaching gangs in the field, but also how to positively engage with the community to educate and sensitize them and build up relationships that everyone benefits from and which provides the necessary information to go after the people behind the commercial poaching. The most important asset in the fight against commercial poaching is the assistance of the community. They provide information on movements into and out of the area and other illegal activities.
Officers meeting with community elders in Guinea.
During in-operations training officers visit villages surrounding the protected areas and meet with community and religious leaders, hunting brotherhoods, political groups, officers from other authrorities and many more. Not only are the meetings invariably succesful in terms of teaching the communities why the protected areas are important and how they can benefit from protecting them, but the same communities provide the information on all the commercial poaching operations in the area and allow us to plan arrest operations. The interviews of those arrested give us all the information needed to aprehend the criminals those suspects work with. Further arrests lead to even more arrests and so on and on. The same applies to arrests of poachers in theprotected areas. One arrest leads to more arrests and so on and on.
Shooting someone dead creates a very final “dead end” and, if the aim is to gether information so as to bring down the whole network, it is therefore not only a tragic but a stupid action. To stop and deter poaching the sydicates and networks need to be torn apart. That requires an intellignet, necessarily complex and thorough doctrine that addresses the problem in its entirety. Shooting poachers in the field does not tear apart the networks, it simply protects them from discovery.
The devastation of Africa’s wildlife can be stopped and stopped a lot more easily and for a lot less cost than most people imagine. Our organizationis proving that on the ground in the front line and in the communites in West, Central and East Africa. It can be done and we are showing the world how.
Sorry for the horrific and sad pictures. I often need to take a break from all of this and just remind myself why we have to win this. I will leave you with an image of how it can be..
How can we allow such scenes to be replaced with stinking, rotting carcasses on barren ground?
Answer by Rory Young:
A few people have gathered in Guinea to do something that doesn't make big headlines and costs very little, yet is the most obvious way to prevent future outbreaks.
Unfortunately all the big news is about the billions of dollars being spent on defeating the outbreak and finding a cure and even more unfortunately nearly all the money is going into dealing with the effect and not the cause. People have for the most part forgotten that this virus originated with a bat poached and butchered in unhygienic conditions and which infected the first victim, a two-year-old child in Guinea.
Whilst the world is pouring gazillions into producing a vaccine, thirty senior officers from the Ministère des Eaux et Forets, along with representatives of other law enforcement agencies, are undergoing the first anti poaching training ever held in Guinea, in order to become anti poaching trainers themselves, so that they may in turn train another five hundred men as soon as possible. It will cost about one millionth of the cost of producing vaccines. Literally.
Whilst vaccines are important, it is important to also do the obvious; educate people not to handle bats and other animals and put an end to the illegal bushmeat trade.
This is not the first time that diseases oringinating from poached or illegally captured animals have sent the world's health services into overdrive. There have been many others, most notably HIV/AIDS, SARS, bird-flu and marburg virus, all related directly to poaching or the trade in captive wild animals. What is cheaper? To prevent outbreaks such as these by protecting our environment and people from each other or by spending more on treatments?
There will be many more new and deadly outbreaks too, as long as the world continues to do next to nothing about the ongoing wreckless abuse of the environment. This is not something the world can turn away from. Just as Al Qaeda reached into everyone's living room in the United States from the other end of the world and tore their hearts out, so too will tragedy attack from afar, again and again, the world over, in the form of diseases quietly waiting their opportunity to find new unsuspecting victims.
The overall training has been funded by the United Nations Office for Project Services and the European Union, and the trainer has been provided by Chengeta Wildlife and Lion ALERT. I am the trainer and am in Guinea right now working with UNOPS and the Guinean government, preparing the equipment, security protocols and logistics necessary to travel as soon as possible to Haut Niger National Park and begin the training.
It is an intensive course that will last five weeks and will cover all aspects of wildlife protection. The officers will undergo a period of lessons in theory, followed by practical training and then finally "in ops" training in the field. It is a mir
Some would say that it is too late, but then they don't know what else is lurking out there. If we don't protect our environment we will have wasted the warning that is the current outbreak. Next time will be worse because it will be different. Nature is warning us and we need to listen and act appropriately.
Our work has been funded by private donations from normal people. No celebs. No billionaires. If you would like to know more about our work please visitor
Answer by Rory Young:
The hunting and preparation of bush meat is not considered wrong for all people at all times. Areas are set aside for traditional hunting and there are very clear restrictions on what weapons can be used and what species can be taken. Bats are not allowed by law to be hunted in many countries, and are discouraged in many others. Considering the latest separate two outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa and the most recent outbreak of Marburg Virus in Uganda, it is most likely and understandable that more countries will enact legislation banning the hunting and consumption of bats.
In a traditional setting, the animals are hunted for personal consumption and usually in remote locations. In the case of a disease outbreak villages in an affected area would cut themselves off from all contact with neighbours, effectively quarantining the virus. In some regions an infected family would be given food and water and then a line would be drawn around their home. They would be forbidden from crossing the line until the disease was clearly finished its progress.
The situation now however has changed dramatically. Poachers are travelling to wildlife areas, killing and transporting and selling meat to the city people on an industrial scale. The wildlife populations cannot sustain the pressure and are rapidly being wiped out. Furthermore, as the world has discovered too late, the lack of hygiene and contact with blood and other fluids of wild animals means that diseases make the leap from animals to man. It happens often and sometimes, as in the case of HIV from hunted monkeys and Ebola from hunted bats, it is deadly and could devastate the entire planet.
It is not unreasonable in the slightest to expect Africans to eat meat that has been produced both in a sustainable and an hygienic manner. It certainly doesn't mean that they have to eat Western food either. Game meat can and is produced in many parts of Africa. The production though is carefully regulated and policed, and there are stringent regulations relating to the processing and sale of any game meat. Interestingly, the carrying capacity of the land is up to ten times greater for indigenous game than for cattle and other livestock.
Whether everyone can be fed meat in Africa or where their protein can or could potentially come from is another matter entirely. What is absolutely certain is that unless Africa's population slows and we find ways of responsibly managing our natural resources we are heading for a calamity much greater than the current Ebola outbreak.
I am in Guinea right now. I sit every day and discuss exactly these questions with the most senior government officials responsible for natural resources and their protection. With Ebola on all our minds constantly, there is no question whatsoever that anyone can or should be allowed to hunt and sell bat meat.
Answer by Rory Young:
The measures being taken vary drastically from country to country and the attitude towards the commercial harvesting of bushmeat is changing rapidly and at different rates, in different countries, both in favour of and against the commercial harvesting of bushmeat.
I will focus on my own direct personal observations this year in two highly affected countries that will serve to well illustrate my point.
The recent and ongoing upheaval in the Central African Republic has resulted in hudreds of thousands of people fleeing to neighbouring countries, possibly as many as twenty five percent of the population. These include non-mulsims fleeing ex-Séléka dominated areas and muslims fleeing anti-balaka dominated areas.
The single most affected group are the Fula or "Peuhl" peoples. The mainly Sudanese and Chadian mercenaries of the ex-Séléka committed horrific atrocities against the non-muslims during their time in power and when they withdrew in the face of masive popular revolt, the anti-balaka chose the largely innocent Fula people to wreak revenge upon. This was simply because the Fula happen to also be muslims.
A muslim family fleeing the violence in Central African Republic (Rory Young, 2014)
The muslims fled South, driving their cattle before them. For centuries the Fula have supllied the other ethnic groups of the region with beef in exchange for manioc, grains and other goods. These other ethnic groups are used to a high level of protein in their diets.
Initially the price of beef went down and the consumption went up as many Fula sold cattle for a pittance to pay for their escape. However, as the Fula moved out, the supply of beef began to slow and then to dwindle, and people people began to look elsewhere. They most especially went after bushmeat, on an industrial scale.
A Ba'aka pygmy hunter. The Ba'aka have traditionally supplied game meat to other ethnic groups in exchange for metal implements and other goods. (Rory Young 2014)
In such a situation the authorities have no choice but to accept an increase in illegal bushmeat. The alternative is malnutrition. However, the change in diet from beef, high in fat and a more varied diet from more widespread trade of different foods to a diet limited mostly to very lean bushmeat and manioc. There has been a widespread problem of deficiences. Not as bad though as complete starvation or malnutrition that would have been even more widespread than it has been had the government blocked all bushmeat trade. In fact, the knowledge that it eases the pressure on the government to feed its people means that a blind eyes is turned to the trade.
The situation in Guinea, in West Africa, is quite different. The Ebola outbreak here has brought the commercial bushmeat and other environmental problems into sharp focus, not only locally, but internationally as well. Efforts are underway to ensure the chances or futher outbreaks linked to poor hygiene practices and the illegal commercial bushmeat trade are lowered as much as possible.
The main market of Madina in Conakry, Guinea, where bushmeat has in the past been brought and sold. (Rory Young, 2014)
The laws and policies to deter and police the illegal bushmeat trade already exist in most countries. However, the will, resources and skills necessary to enforce those laws have not always been available. That situation is changing, albeit in a still limited manner.
I am in Guinea right now to train and advise the Minsitry of Water and Forests officers in wildlife protection and anti poaching law enforcement. A very important part of the training and operations here is necessarily education. There has simply not been any policing in the past and therefore it would be unreasonable to suddenly start arresting people for what many will not even realise is a crime. It is therefore important to begin by teaching people where they can legally hunt for food, which species, under what conditions and how to do so safely and hygienically.
Commercial bushmeat operations on the other hand will be shut down as quickly as possible.
I often wonder what would happen should one of the innumerable containers of illegal bushmeat, including pangolins, monkeys and other species that are flooding into China were to cause an outbreak or Ebola or some other disease there. Would China and the rest of the world then take the threats of the illegal commercial bushmeat trade seriously? They certainly aren't doing so right now.
During the recent meetings between the American and Chinese leaders at which agreements on on carbon emissions were reached, it seems no mention was made of the devastating involvement by China in the illegal ivory, rhino horn and bushmeat trades. Do they really not see the devastation that has been wrought by Ebola, HIV, Marburg, SARS, Corona virus, Bird-Flu and the very clear link to the unhygienic and illegal trade in wildlife and endangered species? Is it because the deaths mostly occur in Africa? Well, the news is, disease, like terrorism and every other threat facing our planet, respects no borders.
Answer by Rory Young:
No, they should not. The problem is not traditional hunting for the pot, it is the uncontrolled and unhygienic commercial bushmeat trade.
Unlike traditional hunting, which involves small numbers of people in usually isolated areas, the commercial bushmeat trade involves massive amounts of meat from all types of wildlife being processed and transported to cities in completely unsanitary and unhygienic conditions. This is an ongoing threat to the world's health and to the environment. More and more of this illegal meat is being exported to China and other parts of Asia.
Although the traditional hunting is controlled by law, those laws are rarely enforced. Many species, such as bats are not allowed to be hunted. There are also restrictions in the location where animals may be hunted, in what quantities and there are rules for handling the meat. There is an urgent need to curb the regional and overseas bushmeat trade as soon as possible and to enforce the rules for legal hunting.
I am currently in Guinea working with UN OPS, the Guinea Ministry of Water and Forests to train officers in wildlife protection, the enforcement of the laws mentioned and in educating the local communities. This work has been funded by private donations from normal people. No celebs. No billionaires. If you would like to know more about our work please visitor
Post by Rory Young:
I'm off to Guinea tomorrow for six weeks to conduct wildlife protection courses for parks and military personnel.
Yes, I know Guinea is an "Ebola country". The work has been organized by UN OPS and all precautions will be taken. I will not be going near any sick people and will be monitored daily by the government health department on my return.
The work is important. It needs to be done. I will not be taking unnecessary risks. Thank you to all Quorans For a Cause, Chengeta Wildlife and Lion Alert supporters for your support and thank you to my beautiful family for sacrificing your husband and father for yet another long, worrying time.
Unfortunately I will not be able to access the internet, but if I do get the chance I will try to answer questions
Peace, love and happiness to you all!
Answer by Rory Young:
There needs to be a convergence of several factors.
The first is political will. If the leadership of a country is not prepared to do whatever it reasonably can to bring it under control then it will very likely be a losing battle. The government is obviously the most powerful organization in any country, able to mobilize resources and services, to educate and motivate the population and to enact laws and penalties. This is the single most important factor. Malawi, where Chengeta Wildlife is funding training, is determined to win. The new government there is quickly trying to do whatever it can to deal with the poaching crisis.
The second is resources. Elephant and rhino poachers are earning big money and are well equipped and motivated by large sums of cash. They have usually come from a background in an armed service and are expereinced. They are actively trying not to be captured or killed and therefore the rangers who pursue them have to be even better equipped and trained, with ample fuel and rations to get to where they need to be at the right time. Unfortunately, resources are lacking almost everywhere. I have worked with dedicated rangers in the past who went barefoot, had no packs, waterbottles or other equipment and minimal or no rations. Many are not even paid. Even with the most dedicated men only so much can be done without the right equipment. In the case of Malawi, it is one of the world's poorest countries. They simply do not have money to spend. They need financial assistance in this from other, wealthier, nations.
The third is doctrine. Unless the department and its rangers know how to take down whole syndicates, at every step of the poaching process, even with the political will and with excellent resources allocated, it will be difficult to win. They have to have strategies, knowledge, training and procedures that are harmonized from the man on the ground all the way up to the top commander and in cooperation with other agencies. The Malawians have partnered with Lion Alert and Chengeta Wildlife to get the most pragmatic and effective training possible done as quickly.
Ideally, political will, sufficient resources and an effective and intelligent doctrine are needed. I have yet to see that happening anywhere..
Answer by Rory Young:
During anti poaching operations I try to suppress any emotions mind and focus on the job at hand. That is not always easy or even possible. Sometimes the emotions come out later, especially when I return home to my family.
When the carcass is fresh, it is crucial to secure the area and quickly build a profile of the tracks before launching a tracking pursuit of the poachers. This also has to be coordinated with mobile apprehension teams, stop groups, observation posts, headquarters, et al. Other authorities also have to be advised. As I am usually engaged in “in-ops training”, that means I am both involved in the operation and instructing. Therefore, thankfully, I am very busy and able avoid thinking about it.
It is very difficult when you have found a beautiful animal butchered and know, for whatever reason, that the poachers are long gone and you are too late to follow. At such times I feel a mixture of sadness, anger and frustration. I try to calm those emotions and channel them into determination and dedication.
The worst time of all for me is when everything slows and you have time to think. The fatigue, anger and after-adrenaline as well as all the thoughts and memories can be overwhelming. I think the following picture shows just all of that on the faces of Malawian rangers I was working with recently.
On these operations, although we were able to successfully pursue and arrest poacher gangs, we also came across a dead rhino. He was a sub-adult bull. He had died as a result of wounds from a snare around his neck and from injuries inflicted on him by an older bull. There were no poachers to follow so we had a lot of time to examine the scene and to think about it all before moving on.
It was tough. The men had been training hard for weeks and were excited about using their newly learnt skills in the field. This threw a huge blanket of negativity over everybody, especially since there were no poachers to pursue. It was also an important opportunity for everyone to realise that at such times we can only use the memories created to drive us on later when the going gets really tough, after days without sleep, without food, thirsty and dirty. Those are the times to remeber these horrible, frustrationg images and use the emotions to grit one’s teeth and get up and go once again.
Rangers all respond differently. Believe it or not, some don’t even care. However, that doesn’t mean they are not effective and professional. Some are motivated byt different reasons. It is not my place to judge them. As long as they are effective and dedicated to getting the job done, that is enough for me. Others are openly angry and will let their feelings be known. Usually the men are silent when the carcass is found and for a long time afterwards. Words are meaningless at such times.
Answer by Rory Young:
The most resourceful man I have ever met had nothing. He didn't own a damn thing. In fact, neither did his wives or children. They didn't need to own things. When they needed, they confidently went out and got what they wanted and returned happily to enjoy it.
Old Ba'aka hunter near Bayanga in Centralfrican Republic.
I have been priveledged to observe and interact with people in many countries, from many classes and backgrounds and in many professions. Everywhere I have been I have met resourceful people. Yet none can compare to the traditional hunter-gatherers. Being resourceful is their way of life.
Young Ba'aka pygmy girl. I took this picture at a mission where, a few days later, Anti-balaka fighters dragged muslim men out of a building where a Polish Catholic priest had been bravely hiding them, and then cut them to pieces. The Ba'aka who lived in the mission area fled into the forest, taking with them a young Polish volunteer woman, whom they kept safe until the Anti-balaka moved on.
Most recently in the Central African Republic I was over-awed and inspired by the Ba'aka pygmies hunt for their food in the rain forest. In spite of the ethnic war had come to them, they had continued in their uniquely cheerful way to live their full lives with nothing any "modern" man or woman would consider indispensible to comfortable living or even necessary for basic survival.
I was priveleged to spend time these two Ba'aka gorilla trackers, tracking a habituated gorilla group.
They do not just survive in forest, they absolutely thrive there, only struggling in areas where their world has been invaded and changed by outsiders.
Alpha male Western Lowland Gorilla inin CAR.
In February this year I sneaked into the South Western part of CAR, via Cameroon, and was able to spend some time with the Ba'aka there. I found that the most harmless people in the world live amongst some of the most dangerous people in the world, in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Little angels with sharpened teeth and tattoo'ed faces..
and his family, with other Ba'aka out net hunting.
I tracked gorillas with them and learned some amazing tips for my own work. They are incredible in the forest, not dominating it, but a real and balanced part of their ecosystem. Their resourcefulness really showed when I followed them on a traditional net-hunt. This is a team effort. A group of men an women will use clever techniques to catch animals in hand-made bark nets. I watched them direct a wild blue duiker with sound, alternately making it run or stop by using different calls. I have never seen anything like it.
The Ba'aka are facing terrible odds right now. The wildlife in the forest that sustains them and that their traditional culture would preserve, is being wiped out. The warfare has forced them to move from their traditional areas, often into primal forest in other countries and worst of all they have been hunted, killed and even eaten by rebel groups.
I was honoured to meetwho has devoted his life to helping the Ba'aka. He has lived with them as a leader, helper, healer and friend for decades, giving up everything to do so. I look forward to one day seeing him and his Ba'aka family again.
I can only live in hope of being able to spend time with them again and that more importantly they will be left in peace in their natural home.
This most definitely is the end of the world!
Answer by Rory Young:
This most definitely is the end of the world!
And now I will clarify that. It is the end of the world for the families and communities being devastated by this horrifying disease in West Africa. It could also destroy many more communities. Many of the comparisons being made to other diseases are unrealistic in that they are not taking into account the fact that the disease has not stopped spreading and communities and individuals have not made a habit of the necessary preventative practices necessary to stem the tide.
This dreadful scourge also has the potential, unless the world wakes up, to devastate vaste areas of Africa and beyond, not only killing, but causing economic and social turmoil. Whilst unreasonable and misinformed panic is a danger, so too is complacency. On the one hand, flights to the affected region should not be stopped, as this could prevent health workers and other important personnel from getting there to help. On the other hand, it would seem the world is not panicking enough as there is not enough money being pledge or given to help do what must be done to stop it.
I am stunned at how many people are only interested in whether or not it will be a threat to their own country or region and only judge the danger on its likely impact on their own communities. Instead they should imagine how badly it hit if it were to spread, God forbid, to somewhere like the Central African Republic or one of the many other poor conflict zones.
Lastly, the comparisons to malaria and other diseases wiping out Africans would be much more understandable if the world actually cared about the ravages of those other diseases. Sadly, the efforts to deal with those too are underfunded and understaffed.
What a cynical bunch we six billion are..
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.
Post by Rory Young:
Official Announcement by Chengeta Wildlife and Lion ALERT Relating to the Recent In-Operations Training in Malawi.
Answer by Jon Davis:
Whatand Yakov Alekseyev have done with 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.
Post by Lisa Groeneweg:
Graphic Gift for Chengeta Wildlife and Rory Young!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 blogwhere amazing people are doing what they can to support the rangers!
Answer by Rory Young:
Here are some excerpts from our new bookthat deal with these questions.
Definition of poaching
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 a variety of reasons, and must be understood within a cultural context. Poaching can include the illegal removal from an ecosystem of; wild animals, wood, minerals, sand, water, plants – in fact the removal of any element of the natural ecosystem in contravention of local laws.
Fighting poaching is not just a process of arresting poachers; it must be combined with a broad effort to motivate people towards a more positive relationship with the natural environment, for the benefit of both human and ecosystem health. This is underpinned by educating the human communities that produce the poachers, as well as the communities that consume the goods illegally obtained by poachers, as to the damage they cause to the local and global environment.
With the above in mind we should first endeavour to understand why natural resources extraction is and should be allowed or disallowed by the law of the state, or by any individual or organization that has authority over natural resources.
Environmental Reasons for Protecting Ecosystems
Natural ecosystems form the basis for all life on earth. The species that live in, and rely on, those ecosystems create a complex web of interactions meaning that each species is reliant on many others for their survival. Our own existence clings to the fragile towers made up of the myriad of different life forms with which we share the planet and the ecosystem services that functioning ecosystems provide. 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. As we are intertwined with these ecosystems we will in the process destroy ourselves. For anyone to believe that humans can exist without healthy natural areas is stupid beyond belief.
We must protect the biodiversity and health of our natural environment for our own well-being. That said we cannot expect man to return all areas to nature, but we can and must ensure that what natural treasures still exist are protected and maintained in a healthy state. This is why governments and other organizations create protected areas; they are intended to ensure the survival of important ecosystems and their components for perpetuity.
Removing any component of these natural areas, most especially keystone species, will have a devastating and often unpredictable domino effect that will degrade both these areas themselves and contribute to further change of our human environments.
Change to the human environment inevitably leads to disease, hunger, poverty, and war. A good example of this is desertification in North Africa; the southerly extension of the Sahara and other North African dry areas, which has caused deadly stresses to the peoples inhabiting the boundaries of these places. In order to survive, pastoral peoples have been forced to relocate south to areas inhabited by other ethnic groups, thus putting strain on local resources and inter-ethnic relations with the result being hunger, poverty and warfare.
Economic Reasons for Protecting Wildlife
It is a mistake to argue that the continued existence of natural ecosystems should be dependent on their ability to generate income for the states and communities where they are found. We need them whether they generate money for us or not; for carbon sequestration, water purification, waste disposal, nutrient cycling and genetic resources, amongst other ecosystem services on which we rely. However, there are significant economic benefits to doing so.
Well-managed wildlife areas generate income and jobs for the state, private enterprise, and for local communities through both consumptive and non-consumptive use.
In the case of consumptive use, this is only beneficial if it does not compromise the overall objective of protecting biodiversity, the health of the ecosystem as a whole, or that of individual species. There are many cases today of over-exploited areas where utilization has been allowed to degrade ecosystems and reduce wild fauna and flora populations below optimal levels. Very often this is blamed on poachers. Although the balance may have been tipped by poaching, the truth is that in many cases the poaching should have been controlled and the utilization levels reduced until such time as it becomes viable to resume. Legalized over-utilization is unethical, self-destructive and defeats the objective of sustainable economic and ecological benefit. Many community wildlife areas enduring economic difficulty are tempted to over-sell an area so as to generate income. This short-sightedness is a clear case of ‘killing the goose that lays the golden egg’.
Altruistic Reasons for Protecting Wildlife
Quite simply, we should protect it because it is beautiful, it is fascinating, it is our heritage, it provides us with enjoyment, spiritual fulfilment, or any other reason that compels us.
Very often any of these sentiments can be found enshrined in law. Although this may not be a strong reason to deter poachers from poaching, it canbe a sentiment from which funds for anti-poaching and voluntary assistance can be generated. It often can and does not only lead to the protection of wild areas and ecosystems but also ensures that they are cared for and managed.
The Objective of Anti-Poaching
The objective of anti-poaching should always be first and foremost the prevention of poaching. Prevention is achieved in the following ways; through education, through dealing with socio-economic factors that encourage poaching, by stopping people from actually poaching and lastly, through deterrence. Education and deterrence both come before apprehension or interdiction or the actual protection of wildlife on the ground, although these last elements may be part of the reason for deterrence. Actual arrest operations are less likely to be necessary if a combination of powerful deterrent, awareness and education exists.
This manual primarily deals with stopping poaching on the ground and deterring poaching. However, the necessity of education and awareness as well as other factors are always intertwined with these objectives. For example a crucial part of operations, pro-active investigation, is dependent on good relations with the community, which in turn is usually a result of educating the community about the benefits and importance of protecting wildlife and wild areas, and by raising levels of awareness within those communities of poaching problems being experienced. This education and raising of awareness leads to the cooperation that allows for good pro-active investigation whereby even unpaid informants provide information on poaching-related activity.
A Complex Crime Requiring Intelligent Solutions
Poaching is not a new phenomenon. Laws prohibiting the removal of natural resources or the hunting of particular species have existed for centuries.
A classic tale of poaching is the story of Robin Hood. Although a hero, he and his merry men were, despite being merry and giving to the poor, poachers. We can learn lessons for anti-poaching from these tales even today.
In his efforts to beat Robin, the Sherriff of Nottingham makes many crucial errors, which are still often made today; he allowed the perception of Robin as being a part and parcel of the community in opposition to the authority to become established. The Sheriff therefore not only had to struggle with Robin, he also had to struggle against the whole community. Robin’s greatest asset was neither his ability with a bow, nor his band of merry men. It wasn’t even his ability to hide in and survive off the Sherwood Forest. No, his greatest asset was the support of the people. Today it is equally important that the poachers are seen as the threat and the authorities as the representatives of and partners of the community, instead of the other way around.
Robin Hood and his team were more skilled in the Forest and constantly outwitted the Sherriff’s men. Today we see untrained and poorly-equipped scouts being sent out to tackle well-armed, well-equipped, and very experienced poaching teams. Sending an untrained man after such groups is both irresponsible and a waste of time, resources and even human lives.
The fact that the Sheriff of Nottingham failed to apprehend and then ensure that Robin was indeed punished means there was a failure not only to stop Robin’s poaching, but also a failure of deterrence. In order for a deterrent to truly work, people need to see that there is a high risk of being apprehended, and then, if apprehended, that there is a strong likelihood of being prosecuted and punished. The punishment itself needs to be such that it will deter a person from committing a crime. In the case of medieval England the punishment of death for killing the King’s deer was, of course, a severe punishment. However, a punishment itself, no matter how severe, is unlikely to deter if the perpetrator is both unlikely to be apprehended and unlikely to be successfully prosecuted. In spite of the harsh penalty, the sheriff was unable to catch Robin. A stiff penalty can only be a deterrent if the perpetrator is likely to be caught and prosecuted for his crime.
Most importantly of all, if the Sherriff was to stand any chance of beating Robin he would have needed a clear, comprehensive, pragmatic, and objective doctrine for combating the overall problem of poaching. Instead, the story tells us that it became a personal vendetta based on greed, with the evil Sheriff representing the authorities and the good Robin representing the poor. Robin won at every turn. In terms of pro-active investigation the Sheriff had no clue about Robin’s movements, weaknesses, enemies, or habits. When a crime was committed it was on Robin’s terms and in Robin’s favoured environment. He was not pressured into doing his thing on prepared ground. In the pursuit, Robin had all the advantages; the Sheriff and his men did not have the skills to follow him. However, just as is often the case today, the Sheriff’s men were better equipped, armed and outnumbered Robin and his men. This is the classic mistake made over and over again; it does not matter how many heavily armed and well-equipped men with battle skills are sent in, if they can’t find the poachers it is just a waste of time, effort and money.
A Comprehensive Doctrine
Poaching is a complex crime, requiring organization and multiple participants. This complexity is poaching’s greatest weakness; to effectively counteract poaching this weakness must be exploited.
Let us look at the different parts and aspects of a typical professional and established cross-border ivory poaching operation:
First of all there is the money; someone funds the operation. Money is needed for food, transport, wages for porters, ammunition, look-outs, bribes for officials, weapons and equipment such as communications devices, clothing, containers, axes, knives and more.
Secondly there are the weapons. These are commonly of two types; for hunting and for defence. The hunting weapon is often a legally purchased, heavy calibre sporting rifle illegally supplied (sometimes rented) to the poaching team by a licensed owner. The defensive weapons are often illegally held assault rifles or other military weapons kept hidden by others when not in use, usually in remote locations.
Thirdly, there is the ammunition. While ammunition for the hunting weapon can often be legally purchased, ammunition for an AK-47 can be much more problematic for the poacher. This cannot easily be purchased legally and therefore is often purchased from people holding old caches left over from wars, from cross-border smugglers, or from unscrupulous military personnel.
Next, there is the food and equipment. This needs to be purchased, stored, packed and transported. By its very nature it makes the group or an individual stand out and is therefore a risk as it will often give away the poaching teams’ intentions. Any risk to the poacher is an opportunity for the anti-poaching unit.
Transport usually entails hiring a vehicle to get to the drop-off point or to cross major rivers. The owners of the transport have to be paid and of course paid well to keep their mouths shut.
The team itself will be composed of: ‘the hunter’ who will do the actual killing, the defenders who will fight off any rangers or other threats, and porters to carry food, water and the ivory.
Already it is possible to see how many people are involved and we have only looked at the actual poaching expedition and not at the smuggling, manufacturing and other parts of the process, all of which mean more people ‘in’ on the crime.
To successfully suppress serious poaching in an area it needs to be tackled at as many stages of the process as possible.
The Adoption and Use of New Technology
The current development of drones and other technology is moving at an exponential rate. The question is for what task is a particular technology going to be more effective and how cost-effective will it be? It should of course be used if it will allow the anti-poaching process to be more successful than using less modern methods, and as long as resources allow for the improvement. Most importantly, it has to be legal. Many countries have yet to legalize the use of drones and some have actually already disallowed them.
It is important to understand that the process itself does not change, and that any technology is still used for specific purpose within the same processes. Therefore the first question to be asked is what role will it play and what specific tasks will it be required to fulfil?
How does it compare with existing technology? For example, would a drone be more effective at silently observing and following a poacher in a rainforest than a local tracker armed with a radio? Perhaps not, but it may be very effective at following a column of poachers moving by vehicle at high speed through an arid area.
There are no “wonder weapons” that will themselves put an end to poaching. The doctrine doesn’t change, just the tools, and the tools need to be both useful and put to best use.
Whilst this field manual deals with the resources most commonly available to rangers, it does not preclude the adoption and adaptation of new technologies to its doctrine. It is crucial in the face of the growing problem that wildlife protection strategy and tactics, the tools and skills employed and any technologies that prove useful and effective be used to lessen the risk to personnel, control cost and, of course, enhance the effectiveness of anti-poaching activities.
Thorough Understanding of the Problem and Knowledge of the Perpetrators
Good solutions may only be found if there is thorough and clear knowledge of all aspects of the poaching in an area, with a comprehensive understanding of all the resources available to the anti-poaching effort. The very first and most crucial part of the anti-poaching effort is the pro-active investigation and the subsequent Information Preparation of the Conservation Area (IPCA). ‘Know thine enemy!’ Picture two scenarios:
In the first a highly motivated investigations team builds a detailed knowledge and understanding of all the poaching in an area, including who is doing the poaching, when and how they are doing it, where they enter and exit the area, where they are from and who they are. This information is then used by a mediocre leader to create a plan for mediocre tracking / pursuit and apprehension teams to attempt to locate and apprehend the poachers.
In the second scenario a mediocre investigative team puts together an incomplete picture of the poaching in an area with vague and incorrect information. A competent leader then puts together the best plan he can for competent tracking / pursuit and apprehension teams to attempt to locate and apprehend.
So who would be most likely to achieve success? Assuming these are small units operating in a very large area, then the best chance lies with the first scenario. The reason for this is that no matter how good he is, if the leader has no knowledge and understanding of the poachers then he is dependent on good luck to find them; and finding them is the key! It doesn’t matter how good the teams are out there if they have no idea where to look for the poachers! If a team is in an area of high activity at a point where poacher movements bottle-neck, and at the right time, then it is more likely to succeed than if it is randomly deployed or according to some unintelligent grid plan.
Well Developed Relevant Competencies
The more capable the people are in all aspects of the effort, the more likely they will be to succeed. Expecting people without the necessary skills and training to succeed is, once again, hoping that good luck will prevail. For example, in recent years it has become popular amongst governments to deploy soldiers to patrol areas for poachers. Unless these soldiers have been specifically trained to track as a team then it will again come down to luck. A highly skilled, well-trained tracking team on the other hand will have a greater chance of locating and following a poaching group, thus allowing its movements to be assessed and an apprehension plan developed and implemented.
The Full Process
The anti-poaching effort is broken down very simply into:
- Proactive information gathering to understand the nature of the poaching threat;
- Reactive information gathering on specific poaching activities;
- Deployments – these are putting the right teams of competent people into the field based on application of information gathering and understanding;
- Tracking – the use of ‘bush-craft’ to locate and track poachers from the smallest sign of their presence;
- Pursuit & Apprehension – the skills of tracking and apprehension teams combine to pursue and capture poachers;
- Reactive information gathering following apprehension;
- Prosecution – we can catch all the poachers in the world, but if we cannot successfully prosecute them then we are but an irritant to their business;
- Preventing and deterring poaching in the first place.
We are giving the book away free to anti-poaching units and 50% of sales to the public goes to anti-poaching training and operations. If you would like to support our work please visit.
I have very exciting news!
Firstly, the manual is out.
Secondly, I will, through ALERT and funded by Chengeta, be training the Malawi National Parks and Wildlife Department Anti Poaching Units.
Thirdly, through ALERT and funded by Chengeta, under UN OPS, be training the Guinea Parks Ranger Officers in Anti Poaching.
More to come soon too! In the meantime I hope you enjoy the full stories below..
Best wishes and thank you for all your support. We are doing great things together!
July 20 2014
Africa’s wildlife is under attack from poachers, and many species face imminent extinction if the killing continues at current rates.
The campaign group Save the Elephants estimates that between 2010 and 2012, 33,000 elephants were slaughtered for their ivory each year. Last year, 1,004 rhino were killed in South Africa alone. In the Central African region the illegal bush-meat trade totals up to 3.4 million tonnes per year, with poachers targeting primates, antelope, carnivores, rodents and fish.
Wildlife loss however is dwarfed by the illegal trade in flora. Currently, up to 90% of wood and wild plant products are believed to come from illegal sources.
With a projected human population increase in Africa of another 1.1 billion people by 2050, and increasing global demand for Africa’s wildlife products, continued poaching will lead to widespread extinction and large-scale deforestation, with impacts felt globally.
To address this complex issue, the African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) and Chengeta Wildlife have published “A Field Manual for Anti-Poaching Activities”. The first publication of its kind, the manual presents the most comprehensive and pragmatic doctrine ever devised to bring the practice of poaching under control. Further, this doctrine utilises existing local resources and personnel with objective and low-cost solutions.
The doctrine has been developed by Rory Young of Bannon-Tighe Global Assessment Group –himself a professional tracker with 25 years’ experience, alongside a number of security professionals with experience in investigations, special operations, law enforcement, and S.W.A.T. training doctrines. The combined experience of these contributors has created a doctrine capable of tackling poaching from every angle and at every step of the process.
David Youldon, Chief Operating Officer for the Zambian based ALERT says, “Right now, organizations 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 programs 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. What is needed in this struggle is a comprehensive doctrine, developed specifically for the complex and organized crime that poaching is, and that addresses all the problems with objective and inexpensive solutions.”
Co-author Rory Young explained that through ALERT he intends to provide training free of charge to Africa’s anti-poaching units to increase their effectiveness. The doctrine and training includes: pro-active and reactive investigation techniques to understand the movements, areas of operation and modus operandi of poachers; surveillance and tracking skills to locate the poachers – developed with many years’ experience and incorporating aspects of anthropology, podiatry and forensic science; apprehension techniques to ensure a safe and effective method to capture poachers; and most importantly, how to prevent poaching in the first place. He says, “Training is conducted within local and international laws and adapted to local conditions and sensitivities. Wherever possible local trainers are to be used, and, the training of local individuals able to provide future training, is always the primary goal. What we need is for these improved techniques to spread like wild-fire.”
Lisa Groeneweg of Chengeta Wildlife, who is overseeing fundraising to implement the training programmes, explains, “At the moment we have sufficient funding to continue offering training courses for the next few months, but we urgently need more donations to meet the huge demand from African governments and anti-poaching units for training, as well as sponsors of the manual so that we can provide all rangers and scouts working in anti-poaching in Africa with a copy”.
To read a sample of the manual click here.
To purchase an electronic copy of the manual, and help fund the training of APUs in Africa visithttp://goo.gl/d80Kwz
If you are interested in becoming a sponsor of the manual so that free copies can be provided to APUs in Africa, contact email@example.com
If you would like to make a donation to support this cause you can do so here.
SECURING MALAWI’S NATURAL HERITAGE
The Southern African nation of Malawi has not escaped the scourge of poaching that is decimating wildlife populations across the continent. In many of the nation’s protected areas some species have already gone extinct, with many more in peril. The most recent estimates suggest that only around 30 lions remain in the country.
ALERT has offered assistance in the form of anti-poaching training to enhance the effectiveness of existing operations. Agreement has been reached with the Department of National Parks & Wildlife to bring the heads of anti-poaching for all of Malawi’s national parks together to undertake an intensive training course starting this August that will include training in how to pass on their knowledge to their anti-poaching teams when they return to their own parks. Training will be funded by Chengeta Wildlife.
ALERT is extremely proud to work with the Malawi Department for National Parks & Wildlife to support wildlife protection in the country.
ESTABLISHING WILDLIFE PROTECTION IN GUINEA
There has been no formalised body of national park rangers in Guinea since 1966, a country that holds one of the last remaining lion populations in West Africa. Scientists believe that only 250 adult lions remain in the whole of West Africa, with Guinea forming part of the Niokolo-Guinea lion area that includes parts of neighbouring Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Senegal. A small sub population of perhaps only 5 – 8 individuals also survives in Guinea’s Upper Niger National Park.
A 2-year pilot initiative to implement a wildlife protection program in the country has begun – 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 project was also conceived with the aim of reintegrating ex-combatants, and in providing support to the regular army in the context of regional insecurity. UNOPS are currently in the process of rehabilitating the operational bases of these three sites, and selecting and equipping 38 officers and 290 rangers. If successful, activities may be extended to a total of 4000 rangers across the Guinea’s protected area network.
Basic training of the officers and rangers will commence in August. One major training area needed for the project’s success is training in anti-poaching techniques. To that end UNOPS have reached agreement with ALERT to provide training throughout October and November 2014. Training will be funded by Chengeta Wildlife.
ALERT looks forward to working with the Republic of Guinea and UNOPS in supporting wildlife protection in this region.
It’s time to stop the killing
Post by Rory Young:
Wouter's First Edit
Post by Rory Young:
A Thank You to
Post by Rory Young:
Answer by Marie Stein:
I find, on Quora, that sometimes the best way to answer a question is to refute its premise.
I think Rory Young's anti-poaching fundraising campaign has been tremendously successful, in a very short period of time. Fundraising movements take time to build, and are often contingent on finding repeat, consistent donors, as well as accessing corporate donations and grant programs and the like to develop a sustainable source of income and support. No matter the hullaballoo one might hear about the success of this or that cause or particular issue or individual tragedy that gives rise to a brief and temporary hit on the internetz, real success in philanthropy and the charitable process is measured over time, and requires perseverance, dedication, and a long-term build. It's measured in year-over-year results; not in the time it takes to compose and send a tweet.
Rory has been on Quora since about March of 2013. That's almost a full year. In the course of that year, he has proven himself to be a prolific and exceptional writer, revealing to the Quora global community a dedicated, wise, and inspirational hero of the anti-poaching movement. In that year, he managed to align himself with fantastic and committed supporters, who were so moved by his words and stories that they have contributed money and volunteered their time and founded a non-profit to support his life's work. How is that not successful? How is this not an indication of success?Do you really think that it's so easy to reach 125,000 people?
I've been on Quora for almost 3 years, and nobody's given me a dime to go walking across the African bush and making a very real difference in the future of our world. But somehow, Rory and his amazing team (calling out, here, especially) have stepped up and put themselves on the line to preserve, nourish and cherish Africa's wildlife, and gotten me to GIVE THEM MONEY to do it.
Not everyone can give money; not everyone can give time. In the course of the past year, Chengeta Wildlife was established. This is what they are trying to do:
Chengeta Wildlife is a group of people from around the world who formed a nonprofit organization to support Rory Young and the work he does. He has skills and knowledge that the teams protecting wildlife badly need to protect themselves and wildlife. If enough funding is generated we would like to purchase tactical equipment needed by the teams. Things like night vision goggles, thermal sensing equipment and motion sensing cameras. Chengeta Wildlife is run by volunteers. So far 100% of funds raised have gone directly to the field where it is desperately needed. WE HAVE ZERO OVERHEAD COSTS!
I like elephants and rhinos. I've been to Kenya and Tanzania, and the Masai Mara. I've been fortunate enough to glimpse, for just a moment, some of the extraordinary beauty and grace that is Africa. I want my children, my children's children, and you to be able to experience that too.
But I had never heard of wildlife protection teams or anti-poaching activities, had never heard of Rory Young. Now I know. Rory's activities and the work of Chengeta is something that is accessible and real to me, through Quora. I may not always be able to give money; and I may not always be able to give time. There are other "causes" and movements where I contribute some of my time and money, too. But I, and hundreds of thousands of others, are now familiar with his work – in less than one year's time. And more are hearing about it every day. I think that is tremendously successful.
This particular campaign, no doubt one of many over time, might not meet its goals, especially if it's only relying upon Quora for donors. Many "causes" use a variety of outlets and sources for funding, repeating campaigns over time, and developing a donor base. It's still early in Chengeta's life. Whether or not this campaign is successful is not any indication that Rory's work, and Chengeta Wildlife, is not or will not be successful in its mission. Quora is a free Q&A site; it's about knowledge, not fund-raising. Quora has proven itself to be very effective (for Rory and Chengeta) to raise awareness; and the connections made through Quora have already yielded results. Quora may not be the best or most effective place through which to raise money; it's not the only space that's available to do that. But, through Quora, we've learned that there's an articulate, dedicated tracker in Africa who has amazing, real and powerful stories to tell about the on-going battles for Africa's wildlife.
Answer by Rory Young:
It is a distinct species. Africa is now known to have two species of elephants and the world has three!
It has recently been shown through a genetic study to be a distinct species. They are not only a different species, the study found them to be significantly different. The study published in 2010 concluded that the two species diverged from a common ancestor 2 to 7 million years ago
I recently enjoyed my first experience of watching Forest Elephants, after a lifetime with African Elephants, and it was very strange. Aside from size, they look so similar. However, their behavior is very different, especially the way they interact.
Post by Rory Young:
The River Crossing
Answer by Rory Young:
Elephants are known to try to cover people or animals in branches after they have killed in rage.
They are one of the few animals believed to empathize. They also have a more developed hippocampus than we do and this organ is linked to emotion through the processing of certain types of memory. They are believed to suffer from flashbacks and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, they also can, and do, kill..
The reason for killing is not of course to eat as they are herbivores, it is out of fear or rage, both of which are quite common amongst elephants. It is a survival mechanism.
Imagine then that an elephant has killed out of fear or rage and then settles down. It is inevitable that their natural empathy and their emotional memory will come into play.
Is this anything but regret? If not, then it is very close to it.
Answer by Rory Young:
Here is a picture of Michael Sata, President of the Republic of Zambia.
I am not a fan of his.
Here is a picture of Guy Scott, Vice President of the Republic of Zambia.
I am not a fan of his either.
Do you notice the big difference between them?
Well, Zambians don't and that is what I am most proud of. Zambia is a former colony and like many former colonies has a small white minority. However, unlike most former colonies and much of the rest of the world, Zambia has absolutely no race issue.
Even though I am not a supporter of these two, I absolutely LOVE seeing them together!
Our National Motto is, "One Zambia, One Nation".
“We want to raise funds for a drone”, the well-meaning head of an NGO tells me with excitement in her voice.
“What do you need a drone for?”, I ask. I admire her enthusiasm, but my frustration has also clearly shown in my voice, despite my best efforts.
“For anti-poaching of course”, comes the confused and slightly irritated reply.
“Which part of your strategy requires drones, what type of drone, to do which particular job, and how much will the drone cost”? I ask.
The lady flushes, “Well, we are working with [famous former military officer now selling hardware] so-and-so who knows all about them”, she answers, now clearly irritated.
This is a very common scenario. Involved individuals, governments and NGOs are usually unclear as to how and what exactly they need to do to slow the massive poaching onslaught. They have no comprehensive doctrine/strategy/tactics/you-name-it for dealing with poaching.
Right now organizations often end up latching onto some expensive technology or some super-warrior as the magic formula. 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 programs where serving and former foreign military men train rangers and scouts in weapons handling and battle tactics. This is just not the answer.
Most of these troops who go in cannot find the “enemy”, they are conventionally trained. They patrol round and round without ever even seeing a poacher. Poachers, although often skilled fighters, are not conducting a military campaign, and they are past masters at not being found. It is a game of cat and mouse and it needs the right cats!
What is really missing and is really needed in this struggle is a comprehensive, intelligent and pragmatic doctrine that addresses all the problems and offers objective and inexpensive solutions, preferably using existing local resources and personnel.
I am absolutely certain that this is possible and that the right doctrine, with the necessary training and implementation will work. I am certain of this because I have, together with others involved in wildlife protection, developed a doctrine and implemented it successfully.
Firstly, three problems have to be solved. The first problem is where to look for the poachers. Sending in assault troops or game rangers to figure this out is a waste of time unless they have been trained in pro-active investigation. Expert investigators are needed.
Investigations can be both pro-active and reactive. Pro-active investigations go hand in hand with working to benefit people who are extremely important to the effectiveness of the wildlife protection operation; the community. The community has to be engaged to assist in efforts and must if at all possible benefit from the tourism and other revenue and prestige earning and job-creating activities. If this is done, they will invariably assist and that assistance is key to determining where to look for the poachers.
To access a wildlife area requires passing through the adjacent areas, usually on foot. Poachers usually also require the assistance of neighboring communities for caching weapons, transporting food, water, and equipment, and of course for carrying ivory and other spoils. The eyes and ears of the community are an invaluable and effective means of gathering information on poachers’ movements into and out of wildlife areas, and in the case of community wildlife areas, within the areas as well. Investigators or scouts /rangers trained in pro-active investigation gather information from the communities, previous poaching activity from the field provided by tracking teams, other organizations and captured poachers and build up a detailed picture of poacher movements.
I have been working with Jacob Alekseyev, a former Major in the USAF and Federal Agent in the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations who has been developing this part of our doctrine and a genius in this field. He has many years experience and the best education and training available for such investigations and his knowledge has been very much missing from the mix.. till now..
These movements once learned and understood seldom vary to a large degree because they are based on necessity. For example, where to find water or where a cliff cannot be climbed or a croc-infested river cannot be crossed and so on. This narrows down the search area considerably, thus requiring less “boots on the ground”.
The second problem is how to find the poachers once their movements, area of operations and modus operandi are understood. This requires both surveillance and the world’s oldest science; tracking.
Children in rural villages in most parts of Sub-Saharan Africa grow up tracking goats and cattle and even wild animals. They have highly developed skills of observation and an innate ability to read sign. This does not mean other people can’t do it. It is just like reading, even an adult can learn to do it, but a person who has done it from early childhood will always be more able to become expert at it.
During the Colonial and other wars in Africa during the last century, tracking was used as an effective means of finding and following insurgents and anti or counter tracking was used to hide one’s presence in an area from casual observers. In fact, it was by far the most successful method of locating unconventional enemy forces and was used on all sides of all conflicts to one degree or another.
There is absolutely no difference between the locating of poachers in a wildlife area and the locating of guerrilla fighters in any area. Together with cleverly located observation posts, this is the only really successful way of finding a poacher. Aircraft do not help in this role as poachers are well known to just stand behind a tree and avoid them. There are of course silent, high altitude drones out there and of course they can play a clear role in surveillance, assuming they can do a better job than the equivalent cost number of highly trained and well equipped trackers, but Africa can’t afford thousands of them and and they scare the hell out of our governments, so let’s not go there..
People who have never seen an expert tracker at work do not usually realize how good they are at it. Imagine a person being able to follow someone’s trail with their eyes the way a bloodhound can follow a man’s scent trail with his nose. Many can do it at a run with hardly a glance at the ground every once in a while. These people can be trained and their skills developed to a phenomenal degree to the point where they can follow one man’s trail into a busy village and out the other side before continuing for days on end.
This is my specialty, I have been doing it since I was a little kid and I have been doing it professionally for the last twenty five or so years. I trained as a professional guide under the Zimbabwe Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management and over the years I have developed my skills tracking both animals and poachers and have also taken a different approach by collecting and studying scientific papers on everything from anthropology to podiatry to forensic science in order to bring my skills into the twenty first century. I have been putting together this part of the doctrine as well as implementing our ideas in the field.
The third problem is how to arrest them. It is both hard and dangerous for the trackers to do because when following someone it is always the follower who is at a disadvantage. The poachers can either try to out-pace you, slow you down by counter-tracking (hiding or disguising spoor) or they can ambush you. The job of the trackers therefore is to locate, follow and thereafter monitor the movements of the poachers and pass this to the coordinator of the operation.
To apprehend the poachers requires a different set of skills to the investigation and the tracking/surveillance teams. The rapid response team needs to get ahead of the poachers. They need more tactical and special weapons skills. Getting ahead of the poachers can mean parachuting in, helicoptering in, boating or driving or, more often these days, running for a position where the poachers are likely to pass, and where they can be surprised.
Jacob and I are working with a third writer for this part of the doctrine. Our third contributor has both a background in special forces in the military, and a SWAT background in law-enforcement, but is still working and so chooses to remain anonymous for the security of his family. We believe our combined skills, knowledge and experience put into writing and taught to wildlife protection personnel all over the continent will make a major difference.
Our work is well-advanced and we are almost finished writing a “Field Manual For Anti-Poaching Operations”. Once published we plan to get as many copies as possible into as many hands as possible of people involved in all parts of wildlife protection, in government, NGOs and as many different parts of Africa.
I have been training anti-poaching teams in this doctrine and this has been funded recently by Chengeta Wildlife – We train wildlife protection teams. If you can, please spread the word about their efforts to publicize and raise funds for wildlife protection training – Poachers Are Targeting Africa’s Elephants
Please support us, donate, sign up or spread the word. We need everyone’s help!
Answer by Rory Young:
Just a few days ago and a was sitting on the riverbank in Nola in the Central African Republic. I was watching Congolese troops crossing the river on a little cable ferry.
The three landcruisers and twelve or so men from MISCA looked worryingly inadequate for what we knew was heading towards the capital of Mabaere province. Still, there was a tangible atmosphere of relief in the town, especially of course amongst the Puel and Mborororo muslims trying desperately to find a way out.
The larger part of the muslim population had already fled South towards and across the Cameroon border. I had been passing the trucks, boats and even moror bikes piled up with whole families and the few belongings worthy of carrying. How many had already left Nola was made clear by the number of shops closed and locked up. The muslims have traditionally been the traders and shopkeepers in CAR. The few shops still open in town were kept by local muslims waiting to leave. They all whispered the same sad tale to me of how they were unable to get their families out because of the shortage of transport since the Seleka rebels fled, taking every vehicle with them.
They had every right to be fearful. The stories brought by refugees from areas that the anti-balaka had already reached were sickening. Just the day before two refugees had tumbled off the back of a truck and been butchered by a crowd wielding machetes. In Nola there was a lot of anti-muslim talk. The Seleka had been brutal but at least there was basic order. I watchwed a gendarme lay into a man with a stick for fighting in the street. This happened a lot apparently. The Seleka had taken all weapons from the gendarmes before leaving so I imagine the beatings were deemed necessary to instil respect for their authority when a gun on display was no longer possible.
That was not a problem for the FACA though. These fellows who had fled before the Chadian and Sudanese mercenaries who made up the Seleka's ranks now reappeared, their uniforms freshly pressed, the weapons oiled,. their sunglasses shiny and their.. flip-flops.. cool.. (I never figured this out, perhaps when they hid their uniforms and weapons during the Seleka rule they continued wearing their boots and now they are worn out..?) The FACA were doing a brisk trade in beef. They would shoot cattle belonging to the muslim refugges as they passed by and sell the meat to the local community.
So what has all this to do with the effect on the wildlife? Well it is mostly to do with the loss of those muslim traders and shopkeepers and especially to do with the loss of the cattle that the FACAs (yes pronounced fuckers with relish by those who have dealt with them).
There is now no food.
So how is everyone going to feed themselves? They have already said they don't like the rice that the International community is sending in and they "need meat". So, they are going to eat bush meat.
All those hungry people are going to head into the parks with all those guns and they are going to devastate the wildlife.
It has already begun.
I spent some time with the thin green line in Dzanga-Sangha who are the only hope for protecting the wildlife and with their advisor, Franck Cunniet, a very capable and experienced former French soldier and anti-poaching man.
Franck has worked in Northern C.A.R., Congo and elsewhere battling Chadian and Sudanese ivory poachers and the odds, often alone. I can clearly see there is a determination to protect the park and its unique wildlife and I have no doubt about the capability and resourcefulness of these men. However, there are simply not enough of them.
I believe they can protect Park and its elephants if they are given the support to do so, but not the greater protected area. The protected area is already being hit hard and when the hunger hits hard the poaching will then be catastrophic.
Africa needs many, many more teams on the ground, doing the actual anti-poaching work. Without them there is really no hope.
After heading South again, back to the forests I heard that MISCA had not stayed and that the anti-Blaka killed sixteen people in Berberati before moving on to undefended Nola. They pillaged but amazingly the FACA prevented them from killing any muslims.
Before leaving I heard from refugees from Nola that there was virtually nothing left to eat there and that, yes, people were heading into the bush to hunt for food..
Post by Rory Young:
Tough but very necessary decisions.
Post by Rory Young:
Answer by Rory Young:
When Zimbabwe first began de-horning rhinos they found the poachers still shot them.
The reason for this is that If they left them alive then they might end up wasting their time tracking a hornless animal at a later date.
Poachers will shoot a rhino for a little bit of regrowth because the horn is so valuable. The only way for de-horning to work is for all the animals in a wildlife area to be de-horned and for the horns to be cut off again when they grow back.
Answer by Lisa Groeneweg:
Quorans For A Cause blog is a facilitator.
"The facilitator's job is to support everyone to do their best thinking and practice. To do this, the facilitator encourages full participation, promotes mutual understanding and cultivates shared responsibility. By supporting everyone to do their best thinking, a facilitator enables group members to search for inclusive solutions and build sustainable agreements" – Kaner
The Quorans For A Cause blog was formed in an effort to gain support for The Tashinga Initiative, but we hope to use the blog to facilitate for other causes once we have TTI flush with funding and team members are in place to continue supporting them financially and otherwise.
Over the past weeks people have been incredibly helpful. Almost everyone we approached has agreed to become part of the team. There have been many Quorans inspired to give donations and even more have offered their help.
Of course, QFAC's efforts for The Tashinga Initiative were met with such generous support because of the popularity and goodwill built by .
We still need three team members to help with a one time TTI crowd funding project. Please message me on Quora if you could help with one of these positions.
- Crowd funding campaign manager. Should be someone who has been part of successful crowd funding campaigns with a strong understanding of how to market these campaigns online.
- PR manager. Anyone who has worked on social or non profit campaigns online would be ideal, but strong PR experience irrespective of domain will be invaluable in making sure that we are as effective as possible in getting the word out.
- Social media manager. Someone who has knowledge of platforms likethat can give a big boost to the visibility of our crowd funding site. Organize and give us a timeline of what to do when. This person can also help us creatively determine specific messages to share.
There has been a steep learning curve with this first effort. Unfortunately for Rory Young, his cause was our first and he was forced to traverse that steep grade with us. Though he has been gracious throughout the process.
In the future we hope to follow guidelines established this first time through. If a worthy cause is brought to our attention and we decide to act, the following should occur:
- The cause will be defined. A limited number of posts on the blog will describe the cause.
- Quorans that feel a connection with the cause and want to work to create solutions will be identified and their skills defined.
- Efforts needed to further the goals of the cause will be defined.
- Volunteers will be assigned to teams based on their skills; teams will be given specific tasks to complete.
- Additional volunteers will be asked to oversee and guide the teams as needed
Once the teams are settled and comfortable we can move on to the next cause.
Periodically QFAC will post updates on past causes.
Lean On Me, Bill Withers
Quora is a beautiful place for a blog to dwell. A place where people come together to support each other.