Our Life In The First World: Part Two

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…

A battery!

Sweet mercies!

Advertisements

How important is it to save the world’s elephants?

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

Rory Young
12/01/15
http://www.quora.com/Rory-Young-1

How To Catch Poachers (in a nutshell).

How To Catch Poachers (in a nutshell).
In order to bring poaching under control, it needs to be tackled at the market, in transit, and on the ground. I will focus here on the problem of tackling the poaching on the ground.

“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

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.

View Answer on Quora

 

 

Training Anti-Poaching Trackers in Zimbabwe

With trackers from the Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit at the end of a recent training exercise. 

Man-tracking is completely indispensable the anti-poaching. The better the tracker the easier it is to find and follow the poachers. The poachers know this of course and practice “anti-tracking” or “counter-tracking”measures to try and conceal their tracks or avoid leaving sign.

I watched a documentary on television recently where some well meaning former special forces soldiers were attempting to locate poachers by all means except cross graining for tracks in areas most likely to be traversed by poachers and of course failing.

Poachers are not stupid. Most of them were either guerilla fighters or counterinsurgency fighters or were taught by such experts who fought in the many bush wars in Southern and Central Africa. They know how to simply stand behind a tree trunk to conceal oneself from aircraft.

They also know they shouldn’t go near water points during the dry season as there will probably be observation posts set up to monitor them and so they carry large amounts of water, even if it means it will be backbreaking work and will slow them down.. They are patient determined and skilled.

Overcoming these tricks requires well developed tracking skills and a thorough understanding of counter tracking techniques.

Together with an expert tracker from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority I spent some time training the Bumi Hills Anti Poaching Unit trackers in the Omay area in Zimbabwe in advanced tactical tracking techniques.

Important lessons included:

Gender
This is quite easy to determine once one knows how. Women point their  toes more inward and most important the straddle (the width between the line of tracks on the right and left feet) is much narrower than a man’s.  In other words men walk with their feet further apart whilst women walk with them closer together or even overlapping (picture a catwalk model walking down the ramp and a wrestler strutting in the ring).

Determining Stature
The height of a person is directly proportional to their foot length. Roughly 6.5 the length of a bare foot will give the height. This varies according to ethnicity and other factors.

Determining Weight
The width of the heel is greater proportionally to the length of the foot the heavier the individual. The thinner the heel then the skinnier the owner and the thicker the heel then the heavier the owner of the track.

Determining Whether Loads are Being Carried
When someone carries a heavy load they take shorter steps, they point their toes more outward and their straddle widens (they walk with their feet further apart). Furthermore packs and other luggage will often be put down when resting and the sign left can tell what it is, i.e. box, water container, backpack, etc.

BHAPU trackers learning how to tell the difference between the tracks of someone walking unburdened and someone carrying a load. Leading up to the man piggybacking his comrade are his tracks. To the right are the tracks of the same man walking unburdened. Knowing how heavily burden a tracker is and what they are carrying can tell how slow or fast they are able to travel, whether they will need to find water or not and much else.

Ascertaining the weaponry being carried.
This   Knowing what weapons and how many of them a group of poachers is crucial information. A couple of trackers can’t take on a large group armed with AK47s and RPG7s. As with other burdens they will invariably rest the butts of their weapons on the ground when stopped. Every weapon is different and this mark left on the ground indicates what weapon left it. A well organized and experienced group of professional poachers will often have one heavy calibre sporting rifle for shooting the elephants and any number of assault rifles for use against wildlife protection personnel.

A heavy calibre  .458 bolt-action rifle designed to be used on big game such as elephant and smaller calibre fully-automatic  AK47 designed for warfare. Between and slightly above them can be seen the marks left by their butts when p 

Determining the Number of Poachers
This is relatively simple. Once the direction of travel is determined two lines are drawn between the tracks furthest apart from each other. The number of people can easily be determined within the sectioned area.

Breaking Down the Group.
Once the number of people is determined the trackers will assess the tracks of each individual thereby building up a picture of the make up of the group and what equipment and supplies they have. For example, “serious” groups coming from across the border in Zambia will travel in large, well-armed groups (they bring their own porters for the ivory), weartakkies” (canvas plimsoles), carry all their water so that they do not have to go near the watering holes and typically move faster. Local poachers on the other hand typically travel is small groups because they can call on porters from local villages, wearmanyatellas” (homemade shoes made from car tyres and tubes which leave very faint tracks) or go barefoot, travel slowly and carefully counter-tracking to avoid detection. These groups often know where and when scouts will be and therefore are less concerned about approaching water but will counter-track when doing so.

A Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority Scout explaining what information can be gleaned from the footwear of poachers. 

Basic Tactics
The advantage is with the poachers if they know they are being tracked as they can easily lay an ambush on their own trail. Therefore tracking unit tries to follow without alerting the poachers that they are being followed.

The usual formation is a tracker with an armed scout oneach of his flanks and moving ahead of him. While the tracker focuses on following the tracks, the scouts focus on protecting against any threat from dangerous animals or ambush by the poachers being followed.

I would rather not reveal the tactics used to arrest/engage the poachers. Suffice to say stop-groups and/or air support are preferably used whilst the tracking group focuses on “shadowing” the poachers and keeping track of their location.

In terms of picking up tracks in the first place patrols will”cross-grain” areas where it is difficult to conceal tracks but necessary to cross, such as dry riverbeds, game trails, “capped” areas, watering holes and other sources of water.

Counter-Tracking and Anti-Tracking
Experienced poaching groups use many methods to conceal their tracks or not leave any. Commonly this is done by not walking on ground that will leave tracks, such as stepping on stones, approaching roads, dry river beds and large game trails at a 45 degree angle and then leaving it at a different angle after crossing, walking backwards across roads on one’s toes and many other tricks.

This is just a taste of what an anti-poaching tracker knows and does. If there is interest in the subject I will happily post more.

 

Lifting Snares and Dodging Charging Buffaloes in The Omay Area of Zimbabwe.

I hate wire. Whilst it may look like a harmless barrier for most people, to many of us it represents pain, death and the desperation of hunger and poverty.Whilst elephants and rhinos are usually poached using guns, more animals as a whole die horrible deaths from snares made from plain old fencing wire.These are typically set, often in lines, along game trails frequented by the targeted species of animal or even any animal. The intention is usually for the poor victim to be caught round the neck and strangled. Such a death is slow and agonizing, usually lasting days.Anti-poaching teams spend a lot of times searching for and removing these snares.

A Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit Scout Holds Up a Wire Snare Removed from The Omay

Sadly, many other animals, including elephants and other big game get limbs caught in snares and end up dying just as miserably and even more slowly.

Remains of a buffalo killed slowly by a snare which can still be seen wrapped around the face.

With the economic crisis many poor people in Zimbabwe have turned to snaring, hunting with dogs and other forms of poaching as a way to supplement their meager diets with some real protein. Even worse, some unscrupulous individuals have turned this into an industry, snaring on an industrial scale so as to sell the meat for financial gain.

Whilst I was working with the Bumi Hills Anti Poaching Unit recently we received information that this was taking place in a neighbouring concession. The team of poachers would sneak in, lay snare-lines, scare a herd of buffalo into running through it, kill and butcher any caught and then lift the snares and go, leaving little trace.

Reports came in of lots of cheap buffalo meat being secretly sold in nearby villages. In the space of two weeks four buffaloes were also found wandering around with snares attached to them. Although the nooses had tightened the buffaloes had broken the wires free from their attachments to trees or even torn the tree out of the ground.

One morning, just as I was about to set off on a training patrol with the anti-poaching team, word came in of a buffalo with a snare around its leg in a nearby area. Andries Scholtz was on his way by boat from Kariba to dart it and remove the snare.

Andries holds a dangerous drugs license from the veterinary department which authorizes him to purchase and handle dangerous narcotics and to dart animals.

We offered to assist and joined up with Andries by boat. The young female buffalo was lying next to the shore near a gulley shielded by bushes.

Unfortunately for us she moved into the gulley. This would make the approach to dart her and the four minute period before the drugs took effect much more dangerous.

We moved along the shoreline and around a “point” and moored the boats there. It was far enough away to be out of earshot from the buff and downwind from where the buffalo was hiding in her gulley, so a good place to begin the approach. Andries began preparing the drugs and dart gun.

Someone would have to “back up”. This means shoot the animal if things go wrong and it charges. Mitch Riley and I and I are both licensed for this work. As I had a video camera we agreed that we would both go in with Andries but Mitch would back up and I would record the event.

I admit to being nervous about this. I have followed up and shot many wounded buffalo and checked out many but rarely without a heavy calibre rifle in my hand and never whilst looking through a viewfinder. I would have to trust Mitch to make the right call and do what would have to be done if it became necessary. Zimbabwe is well known to have the most difficult and rigorous licensing system in the world for Professional Guides and Hunters. An important part of the training is the shooting of dangerous animals that have to be put down at close range. The experience and training are so hard that very, very few ever make the grade.

Once Andries had his dart-gun ready we discussed the approach. Andries would go in first, followed by Mitch and then myself. Any trouble and Andries would drop back and Mitch would take over. I would keep filming as long as possible.

We set off upwind towards the buffalo’s hide-out. The mopani scrub gave us enough cover but we had to step carefully as the ground was littered with dry leaves which made a loud noise when stepped on. We hoped that she would still be in her gulley and not on the top of the bank.

We crept up and found her wedged into her hiding-place.

Andries fired the dart which sounded like a champagne cork popping whilst Mitch kept his rifle trained on her. She burst up the bank through the bushes and bolted away from us. Now the race was on to find her. The drugs would take effect in four minutes. We began to track her.

After four minutes we hadn’t yet caught up with her. Andries called in all the helpers to spread out and search quickly rather than track now that she was unlikely to be on her feet. Within a minute someone found her. Everyone raced to where she lay and got busy.

Andrews daughter Kylie brought his drugs and he began monitoring the buffalo and getting the antidote ready while Kylie’s friend Dean began cutting off the wire wrapped tightly round the animal’s ankle.

Although the wire had not broken the skin because it is so thick (much, much thicker than a cow’s-more like an elephant in fact) it had obviously stopped the blood flow. It was also still attached to the stump which had been torn out of the ground making it even more difficult for the buff to walk.

Just when the wire had been taken off and things were looking good, she stopped breathing. Andries immediately gave her some of the antidote and told everyone to get ready. He couldn’t wait any longer. She was not responding well and her breathing was stopping and starting. He had to revive her immediately.

Everyone picked up the equipment as Andries injected the rest of the antidote into her. Most of the group were sent well back whilst Andries, Mitch and I waited with Dean to see whether she would be okay. She got up. She looked at us. She was not happy. I decided to keep filming as long as possible.

Andries told us to get ready to run. I looked back for a suitable tree to go up and saw none. Oh dear. She charged.

Initially she headed for me but then veered towards Mitch who was over to my right. I waited for the rifle shot.

Nothing happened. Another split second passed.

The buff is on the left now and you can see Mitch’s arm on the right. Bear in mind that this is all happening in split seconds. 

Still he didn’t shoot.

Closing in..

By now I’m wondering what he is planning as he hasn’t raised his rifle. I would have shot it by now.

Mitch begins to side step her as I turn to run:

You can just see him starting some sort of matador move as she turns past him. Riley is as Irish as a name can get. I didn’t know they were part Spanish though..

Unfortunately I was no longer thinking about filming but instead about saving my skin so didn’t get much on camera after this.

Having missed Mitch she swerved my way. Dean threw his pack at her, which is the blue thing in the following picture, just as I began to do a neat turn into a sprint. She ignored the pack completely.

The view from the camera of Dean throwing his pack just as I begin to destroy Usain Bolt’s best time.

She turned away and having made her feelings known she headed off. None of us were hurt and thanks to Mitch’s judgement she is still alive and kicking.. Or charging rather..

After she went past him he aimed to shoot if she didn’t turn away and looked about to gore someone.

Laughing and letting off steam after the adrenaline rush!

Andries and his family do this work for free and never turn down a call out. Very often they also cover all the costs of the exercise out of their own pockets. This amounts to many animals a month. I feel honoured to know these people. It is thanks to all the efforts and sacrifices of people like them that there is still hope for Africa’s wildlife. And if this war that is being fought to save the animals is ever one it will be thanks to the efforts of the “small”, great people like Andries and his good family.

Thank you family Scholtz!

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!”

View Answer on Quora