UPDATE FROM THE WILDEST AFRICA

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!

Rory

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 info@lionalert.org
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

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What is Nelson Mandela’s legacy?

Answer by Rory Young:

Peace, hope and dignity.

Stanley M made it clear to me that he hated me and all white Africans. We were sitting in a tent and had just heard about Nelson Mandela’s release. Stanley was a former Zimbabwean ZANLA guerilla fighter. He told me that payback time was now coming to white South Africans and they would get what they deserved.

I thought back to the year I had spent at boarding school in Kimberley in South Africa in 1985 as a 12-13 year old. I remembered a pleasant evening walk from a church service back to school. My friend and I were strolling along a small street lined with pretty colonial bungalows, all with lovely little gardens. It was sunset and we were enjoying the walk and laughing at some silly stories we were telling each other. We were interrupted by a voice from one of the verandahs.

Kaffir“, it said.
[Edit: Kaiffir is the most derogatory word for a black person]

I turned and saw a family sitting in silence with cold faces staring at us. I looked to my friend. His name was Hilton and he was black. He was small and harmless and a good boy. He now had a look of fear on his face; a look also of sadness, disappointment and frustration. He searched my face, waiting for my own reaction. I smiled pathetically and tried to make light of it. I failed.

“Hey kaffir boetie, voetsek!” This was from the verandah of the next house along. Again, cold stares. We ignored it and continued.
[Edit: “boetie” literally means little brother, but is meant sarcastically and “voetsek” means roughly “piss off”.]

As we approached the next house, I heard in English, “Get that little kaffir out of here soutpiel!” We walked half a kilometre along the row of houses and, every step of the way, both he and I were insulted; he for being black and me for simply walking with him.
[Edit: “soutpiel” is a derogatory name used by Afrikaners for Anglo-Africans. It literally means “salt prick”, implying that Anglo-Africans have one foot in Europe and one in Africa and that their penis hangs in the ocean becaue they are not truly from Africa]

Our school was a private one and thus could admit black kids, unlike the government schools which were all strictly segregated. We had been walking through a white area where any black would have required a special pass to enter. It was a huge shock and a lesson to me. I was struck not only by the laws, but by the real hatred of this whole street towards my friend simply because he was black.

I came back to the present. I was worried. Stanley was right, white South Africans would be wiped out, murdered on the streets. I had absolutely no doubts about it.

I had of course heard of Nelson Mandela. I had heard that he had been a “terrorist”, as some called him, or a “freedom fighter” as others called him. I expected a man like Samora Machel or Robert Mugabe. I certainly didn’t expect the Nelson Mandela we would all learn to respect and love. African leaders had always been a disappointment to me. They had been hugely consistent in their ability to mismanage, steal from their people and of course butcher their enemies.

I couldn’t imagine the Afrikaners letting themselves be governed by a black man and an ANC government. On the news I saw Eugene Terblanche rallying the AWB to fight when the inevitable black revenge came. It would of course spill over into Zimbabwe, Namibia and other African countries and it would descend into bloody civil war. Those of us in the middle would be forced into one group or another, as always happens. My own family had been divided during the war in Rhodesia. Would I end up fighting my own?

It never happened. Nelson Mandela not only became the great example of a leader that Africa needed, he became a unique and wonderful example to the whole world. He also became a personal example to me. If he could go against the flow and stand alone in order to do the right thing, then so could we all. Not just South Africans, but Africans of all nationalities, colours and creeds. Nelson Mandela became a greater leader than any white leader. He was a man who could be respected, admired and loved more than any other politician, and he was black! What a gift to mankind.

Nelson Mandela flew so high above the ideals and actions of any other man of his generation that he changed my little world and the greater world I live in forever, giving me and all Africans, both black and white an ideal to live by and a future to believe in.

Nelson Mandela’s legacy is peace in South Africa for the last twenty years, hope for the future and dignity for himself, his people, his country and his continent.

Without his amazing personal leadership and ability to inspire people to forgive and reconcile there would have been a very different outcome and no matter who leads his country in the future, they will always have to live in his moral shadow. He has shown us the way.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is our conscience.

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What corruption have you experienced in your life?

[Groan] I have lived with different types of corruption in Africa for many years and have seen it grow steadily worse.

Along with poor governance, poverty and HIV/AIDS it has devastated and continues to devastate Africa.

There are many different types of corruption at play. I won’t go into embezzlement and others that haven’t affected me so much personally and directly. I will look at those that have really been “in my face” and how I have dealt with them.

Let’s look at extortion first.

The mild form is where a government official will want payment for doing his job. They will refuse to do anything until they get money or they will slow the whole process and demand payment to speed it up.

There are also much nastier forms. A number of foreigners in a certain town I used to live in were accused of drug-dealing. The police drug officers would plant drugs in the victim’s vehicle and then come and search the vehicle “after receiving an anonymous tip”. The witless “drug-dealer” is then arrested.

A series shakedowns will then begin. These include prison officers getting food and other necessities to the victim, lawyers and magistrates/judges handling the case, journalists and politicians can also jump on the band wagon by demanding money for taking sides in the case.

Usually there will be an acquittal or large fine after a suitable bribe has been arranged.

Understanding the law, protocols and culture all play a part in preventing and dealing with this and other forms of corruption.

Here is an example. I once returned to my office on a Friday to find a British manager who worked for me sitting at my desk behind which (in my chair!) sat two ladies from immigration. They were new in town and didn’t know me..

I immediately greeted them politely and respectfully. They ignored me.

I smiled to myself as I knew what they were up to and in their arrogance they had made some really silly mistakes. I then asked them what they wanted. I was told to keep quiet as they would be asking questions.

I told them to get out of my chairs, out of my office and off the property extremely fast or they would be physically removed.

Of course they were taken completely by surprise, became very upset and shouted that they were from immigration and would have me arrested. I motioned to get a rope and made a big to do of planning to tie them up and remove them. They ran away.

I then sat down and started making calls. The British manager by this time as freaking out and thought I had lost my mind. Foreigners quite understandably usually kow-tow and try to appease and invariably end up in a cell on trumped up charges. Dealing with this stuff requires knowledge, which I have found usually gives one the confidence needed to make the right decisions.

I called the heads of the police and immigration and the District Commissioner and informed them that I had just chased off two fake immigration officers. Of course I knew that they were real immigration officers and the police and immigration chiefs knew that I knew that.

They asked me how I knew they were fake and I told them how they had not followed any legal protocols/procedures. I explained carefully how they had not reported to and  informed the “appropriate authority” (me) who they were and what the purpose of their visit was, they were not wearing their uniforms and had not informed me they were from immigration when directly asked. Most importantly (culturally), I also mentioned how they had refused to return my greeting.

Not returning a greeting in many parts of Africa is considered shockingly aggressive behaviour and is considered totally unacceptable.

Later I received a polite phone request for the DC to come to immigration for a meeting as a complaint had been made against me by two immigration officers.

I went to the meeting with two truckloads of forestry workers as witnesses (60+ wild looking men who were very loyal to me and the company) .

The chief of immigration met us at the entrance, rolled his eyes of course and suggested I leave my entourage outside. (we both knew a game was being played out). Of course, I graciously obliged. We then went into the meeting.

I was treated like a VIP and offered a choice of refreshments. The only question discussed was whether the women officers had been on duty or not. I agreed that they had probably been on duty (to the great relief of everyone there) as that would mean they wouldn’t be charged with a crime but only reprimanded.

Finally the immigration officer said that he had a problem as the officers were saying I had been rude and that I must apologize or “they would take me to court” and would I kindly do so, so as to avoid any more hassle for everyone.

Of course couldn’t do that as they would then certainly “take me to court” and treat an apology as both weakness and admission of guilt.

After some consideration I refused and demanded an apology from them and a chicken.

A chicken is the traditional means of showing apology for a wrong. Everyone laughed and we all went home.

The status-quo was resumed and no one ever came near the property again to bother my ex-patriot managers.

By the way, Fridays are the favourite day to arrest ex-pat managers for trumped up immigration charges as they can’t get out till Monday at the soonest so will by that stage pay anything not to have to endure another second of an African jail.

The next popular form of corruption is bribery. I don’t mean where the bribe has been demanded by an official but rather is offered by a businessman, for example, in return for favours. This has been very destructive in my part of Africa.

It is just too easy to offer a poor official two years salary or even twenty years salary in return for either turning a blind eye or even actively breaking the law to make sure said “businessman” gets what he wants.

Here is an example of how bad this can get. A few years ago I applied for some prospecting licenses together with an “indigenous” partner.

We put together all the required documentation and then employed twelve men from our chiefdom to “walk it through”.

I don’t mean officials and I don’t mean we bribed anyone. We did everything above board. The twelve individuals were paid to guard our files.

Corruption had become so bad at the ministry of mines that some officials would be paid huge sums to copy every bit of correspondence onto someone else’s letterheads and swap it all for yours in return for a tidy sum from a mining company.

The first you would know that this had happened would be when you discovered that the license was issued to someone else and no record existed of your application and work!

The other common types of corruption are less insidious. One is closely related to cultural practices. This involves “gifts”.

Traditionally, you never visit a chief without taking a gift. In some tribes the chief must always give a gift too although this will always be significantly smaller than what you give him. This has carried over to modern government. When you visit someone important you are expected to give them a gift just for seeing you.

Sometimes the corruption is not really initiated by either party and is more of a dirty partnership. A government official and a business person will often collude to develop something and then to share it between them. The official effectively “moonlights” and partners with the businessman, sharing inside knowledge. This is rarely considered corrupt.

Often an official will help someone, expecting a “gift” at the end, usually the price of a beer or two. When not asked for up front it is rarely considered corruption. It is regarded as a thank you and builds a longer-term bond.

In Central Africa kinship is paramount. The closer you are related to someone the more taboos there are against ripping them off. If you are completely unrelated in terms of family, clan, tribe, nationality, race or personal friendship then you are fair game. It is always important to establish and enhance whatever ties exist in order to avoid being a target for corruption. The closer the kinship the less chance of having a problem.

If closely related then one is expected to treat the other as “a brother” and buy lunch or help in some way. This again is rarely considered corruption even though it may well be so legally.

Very often this means simply befriending everyone and becoming “part of the landscape”. Friendship is highly prized in Africa and will very often be put before money.

My personal way round potential problems is to get to know everyone I can in a government department before approaching the issue at hand. I seldom encounter problems. If I do have a problem I would call sinister then I will usually find something to throw back at the individual concerned. Sound nasty but it is self-defense. A recording device can come in very handy.

I have experienced some really difficult and dangerous situations relating to corruption in parts of Africa and will save most of these for later. However, one that is particularly pertinent comes to mind.

In 1997/98 I was in the DR Congo, on my way to Lubumbashi from the Zambian border.

I was accompanied by a Congolese and an indigenous Zimbabwean. I asked the Congolese what the accepted rate was for roadblocks. He explained that it was three Congolese francs for each  officer and one franc for each soldier.

At the time the Congo was experiencing the bloodiest war in the history of Africa and it was very, very dangerous. There were 23 road blocks to get through in just 90 kilometers. Therefore you had to get it right.

We proceeded well, knowing and agreeing what to pay at each roadblock. That was until someone decided to break the rules.

Having just paid, a young idiot with an AK decided to try and rob us. This is a disastrous situation as once the status-quo has been broken it can all spiral out of control.

He openly stuck his hand into one of the packs to help himself to something. If we didn’t do something ourselves we could end up dead in the bush because the unwritten rules that develop naturally in these situations had gone. We had to re-establish them.

Therefore my Zim colleague and I agreed on a course of action immediately. He grabbed the guy’s arms. I took his weapon.  I kept the AK held up and announced that he had robbed us when we had already paid.

The result was not what someone would expect if they were not used to these places and these systems but definitely to someone who has been there.

The other soldiers and officer left us alone and instead laid into their comrade with rifle butts and boots.

I handed over the weapon to the officer who smiled and told us we could go and that that fellow was a fool.

My point is that sometimes the “corrupt” system becomes the only system and people will usually gravitate to such a system of “parallel law” (for want of a better term). These soldiers knew too that it was either no system or protect the system they had even though it was not “lawful”.

I don’t believe the rest of the world differs much. People everywhere have a notion of fair play and also like to agree on a system whereby it governs their world, even if it is “parallel” to the official system.

This corruption, such as what I experienced in the Congo is not the same as other forms and to me is just a reality of life. It is unavoidable and IS the system. To fix it requires starting at the top and changing everyone’s attitude and thinking all the way down the ranks. That is an almost impossible task.

There are very grey areas and fine lines in such places. However, as the late pragmatic Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa, the only African leader I have seen actually reverse corruption, said, “It mustn’t stink!”

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What did you see as a child that affected you for the rest of your life?

Answer by Rory Young:

When I was eleven years old I saw something that changed me forever. I have never spoken about it since just after it happened and then only to my family. I think it is about time I did.

I was in Blantyre in Malawi where we lived. My mother and step-father were in a restaurant. I had finished eating and had been allowed to go for a walk while they relaxed and chatted over their meal.

As I was walking across a small park a man appeared. He was tall and thin and his clothes were torn. He was carrying something in his hand and he was sprinting towards me.

Behind him was a group of men. They were shouting and trying to catch him. Further back was a larger group, mostly men but also women and children.

As they came close they caught up to him and knocked him down. I realized his clothes had been torn by the crowd and I knew exactly what was going on.

I had seen thieves chased and caught at a distance before. Someone would  shout “kabulala” (crook) and everyone would run after and try to catch the accused person. I had also already seen things a child should not see. What was about to happen though was far worse than anything I had seen or any child or adult should see.

The mob began to beat him viciously. They were not trying to drag him off to the police. They were kicking him beating him with sticks. Then some began jumping onto him with all their weight and strength. I could hear the sounds of the impacts.

The man was crying and screaming and begging for mercy. I could clearly see the terror in his face. There was pink blood frothing out of his mouth. I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t move or look away. I was frozen in place. Many of the people were laughing. No one was trying to stop it.

A couple of men picked up a large rock and carried it through the crowd. They dropped it on his head. He went quiet but his eyes and mouth were wide open but there was no scream. Then they picked it up again and brought it down on his head with full force.

Immediately afterwards the crowd dispersed and I was still in the same spot looking at the scene. I can still picture it in crystal clear detail, including the item on the floor that the man had been carrying. It was a crushed packet of biscuits.

My step-father found me sitting on the ground shaking and hyperventilating.I don’t recall that or how long I was there. I do know that he carried me away before the police came.

He was a former professional soldier in the Rhodesian Army and his “cure” was to tell me I had to be a man and now I knew what life was all about. I suppose that was harsh but true. Either way I never looked at the world the same way again.

I still see the laughing faces and I can still see his face. For a long time I would see the faces of that crowd reflected in the those of people I met. I would be become immediately cold towards them regardless of who they were or what the consequences. This later developed into a greater problem but that is another story.

Something that has haunted me ever since is that I had in my pocket, as an eleven year old, enough money to have bought five packets of those biscuits.

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What has been the most embarrassing moment of your life?

I was once running a wildlife sanctuary and safari operation in the Zambezi Valley. During the wet season the area was inaccessible by road and therefore very few people came to visit.

We spent most of our time at this time of year doing anti-poaching work. Two other camps from which ant-poaching patrols had also been active had been attacked shortly before this time.

Due to the possibility of an attack on our camp I used to sleep in a different empty room or tent every night. I always kept a loaded rifle next to the bed.

One night I awoke to a sound of voices whispering.

I rolled off my mattress and picked up the rifle and torch I had ready and quietly approached the gauze window. I peered out. There was quite a bit of moonlight and I could make out several figures moving along a path towards the main building. They had one small torch.

I had no doubts. There had been no sound of a vehicle or boat. My own team would not risk being shot by walking around the camp at night without giving verbal warning first. I steeled myself for a fight.

I knew the paths of course and as I was barefoot was able to quietly sneak up on them. There were four of the bastards.

A few feet behind them I raised my rifle and switched on the torch, which I held under the barrel, at the same time shouting in the local Goba language, “IWE MIRAI!!”. They froze and two of them screamed.

Two elderly European couples stood in front of me with shock on their faces. They had turned around and were also shining their one torch at me.

I cleared my throat and said, “sorry, I thought your were poachers”.

They said nothing and even more strangely the two women were looking everywhere except at me whilst the chap with the torch was now pointing it behind him.

It slowly dawned on me.. I was stark naked.

There was nothing for it but to behave perfectly naturally so I said, “how can I help you folks”? I casually slung my rifle over my shoulder and put one hand on my hip trying to somehow look normal.

After a long pause one of the men said, “our boat hit a sandbar this afternoon and we have been stuck most of the night on the river”. “Eventually we managed to push it off but we couldn’t get it started and paddled downstream till we saw the light by your jetty”.

I directed them to the dining area, casually excused myself and nonchalantly walked off to get some clothes on. I later fed them and organized rooms for them and the next day got to know them. They were farmers from one of the tobacco growing areas. Everyone was polite enough not to mention my “commando outfit” of the previous evening and I naively thought that was the end of the story..

A couple of months later I was in a completely different country and met a couple who also farmed tobacco. They had never even been to the country where I worked. They asked me what I did and where I was based. I told them.

There was silence and I wondered what I had said wrong. Then the woman said to me, “are you the guy who runs around naked in the bush at night hunting poachers”?