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IAPF Leadership Course 2011 - Zimbabwe
The IAPF recently graduated and deployed 16 rangers across Zimbabwe following an 11-week course at the Nakavango Ranger Training Academy in Victoria Falls. These rangers, who were trained pro-bono by the IAPF, had been selected from existing units after being recognized as displaying leadership qualities. They are now able to take up team leader and assistant instructor positions within their respective units and continue passing on the knowledge.
A number of arrests have already been made and snares removed by the rangers that have been deployed and the feedback from their units has been excellent.
During the course, rangers were instructed by a number of subject matter experts, many coming from overseas to lend a hand. This is part of the IAPF Ranger Training Assistance Program, which creates an opportunity for foreigners to come over to assist either on patrol with the rangers, delivery of lessons or helping with the day-to-day running of the organization. Some of the subjects covered by rangers during the training included patrolling, camouflage and concealment, medical, navigation, search and arrest, crime scene management, evidence collection, correct use of force, unarmed combat, dangerous game, observation, law, tracking and various ecology subjects.
The Nakavango Ranger Training Academy is situated on the Victoria Falls Game Reserve, which is about 10km from the Falls itself. The Reserve has been made available through a partnership with Rani Resorts who have been a huge supporter of IAPF's conservation efforts from the beginning. The 40-man training facility was built through donations from the public and from dedicated followers who held fundraising events in their home country. It has barrack accommodation for trainees, indoor and outdoor classrooms, ablutions, offices and a tented camp for instructors. Solar electricity has been generously donated by one of the international instructors and will enable a small study center to be set up for the rangers, as well as communications and lighting.
The IAPF is now busy raising funds to train a team of 20 instructors that will deploy across Zimbabwe and Zambia and take up instructional roles at existing anti-poaching units. This training, expected to start in September, will take 6 months. The cost of training, living requirements and deployment for the rangers during this period will exceed US$150k. These 20 instructors will be able to train up to 7 anti-poaching units at one time, which will be a huge achievement.
As well as conducting training the IAPF has also maintained an operational presence on the Reserve this year, keeping poaching incidents at zero percent to date. This is despite severe poaching taking place around the region and constant threats from the surrounding area.
It’s not uncommon to hear this word called out during confrontation in a conflict zone. Given the nature of the duty rangers are tasked with each and every day, it is unfortunate that they are sometimes killed in action or by the very wildlife they are deployed to protect.
Last month the IAPF conducted a combat medics course for 5 rangers from the Victoria Falls area. Rangers were taught emergency life saving procedures and put through their paces in the field. GSW (gun shot wounds), chest wounds, burns, mass bleeding and MEDIVAC procedures were some of the skills passed on. Rangers were then re-deployed back to their units with combat medical kits containing equipment they had been trained to use. The first of these kits was donated by Oliver Pritchard from the Mornington Peninsula in Australia. Oli, still at school, plays his violin each Saturday at the local shopping centre to raise funds for the IAPF.
IAPF South Africa
The IAPF has recently joined forces with Elephants of Eden in South Africa and opened Africademy. Located in Alexandria Forrests and surrounded by Addo Elephant National Park on the Eastern Cape, the training facility will house rangers and veterinary students alike. The veterinary course, ‘Into the Wild’ will be running throughout the second half of the year. Anti-poaching training will commence in September and is set to make a big impact.
IAPF intends to work together with a number of organizations over the coming months and years to enable the replication of its programs and to pass on valuable knowledge in the name of conservation.
A New Black Rhino
Recently a baby black rhino was born on the Victoria Falls Game Reserve. Weighing in at around 30kgs, the male rhino was closely guarded by mum for the first few days before we were granted a viewing. This birth was the culmination of hard work by everyone involved with protecting the mother ‘Buster’ over the 15-month gestation period. During this time armed poachers were arrested trying to shoot her with an AK-47 assault rifle.
Black rhino numbers have dropped from 100,000 in 1960 to less than 4000 today. Exact numbers are uncertain but they are listed by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) on Appendix 1 – Critically Endangered. There are many efforts being made to preserve this species for future generations but the most effective way is to protect them from poachers.
Black rhino numbers in the IAPF's area of operation have now doubled over the past 24 months whilst Zimbabwe has witnessed a -.6% growth rate over the last year.
Landmark Case Against Rhino Poachers
Last June IAPF rangers and police arrested five poachers who had attempted to kill a group of black rhinos located less than 500 meters from IAPF headquarters on Rani's Victoria Falls Game Reserve. The 5 poachers have been held in custody and have appeared in court several times in recent months. IAPF Founder Damien Mander has presented evidence that was collected by rangers on course after the incident last year. Working very closely with DSGT Mataka of Victoria Falls Criminal Investigation Department, and Victoria Falls Anti Poaching Unit, hours of testimony have been provided and the case is looking extremely strong.
The poachers had in their possession a number of weapons, one of which was an AK-47 assault rifle and 50 rounds of ammunition. This carries a very heavy sentence in Zimbabwe and combined with the other main charge of ‘Hunting a Specially Protected Animal’ it is quite possible that a combined sentence of 75+ years could be handed down. To date the highest sentence for the attempted poaching of a rhino in Zimbabwe is 13 years. A heavy sentence will send a strong message across Africa that Zimbabwe is taking a stand against rhino poachers and will not tolerate the slaughter.
Ranger Training Assistance Program (RTAP)
The RTAP program began early this year and has proven to be extremely successful. The program is one of the many self-sustainable operations the IAPF conducts to ensure it can continue to provide the service it does pro-bono. Donors from around the world have joined the IAPF on the frontline and assisted with all aspects of running the organization and its operations. Living in the bush, not far from Victoria Falls, donors are in close daily contact with the Big 5 whilst being involved with a very meaningful cause. It has been the assistance of these donors that has ensured the IAPF has continued to grow in 2011.
If you would like to be a part of this unique opportunity and assist with training the rangers tasked with protecting our wildlife then please email [email protected] for more information. There are still positions available for the second half of 2011.
Great Youtube interview from a recent participant:
Education in Australia
Bronwyn Kelly, head of the IAPF education committee, has recently returned to Australia after an extended stay in Zimbabwe working with the rangers and assisting with training programs. She has returned to work at Rose Bay Secondary College in Sydney and is busy teaching children about Savannah wildlife, the IAPF and implementing programs that involve children in philanthropic ways. Her programs involve children with conservation and gears their thinking towards a sustainable future.
The pilot program at Rose Bay is the Homework Challenge, which puts a small value on different household chores. Once completed the children then have to choose a non-profit organization from a supplied list and the funds are then donated. It instills a mindset of doing something for others without personal reward.
If you would like to sign a school up for this program then please email [email protected] for more information.
Fundraising Activities in Australia
The Australian Fundraising Committee has overseen a number of events this year ensuring they all ran smoothly and within the guidelines of Australian Law. The largest event was hosted by Doulene Walker in Western Australia and raised almost US$10k. The proceeds from this event largely contributed to the completion of the Academy in Zimbabwe.
If you are interested in hosting a small or large event in support of the IAPF then please contact [email protected].
Raw Music Festival
The 3rd annual Raw Music Festival is scheduled for the first quarter of next year in Australia. With the experience of two events behind us now we can now utilize the contacts made over past years and the time we have until the event to carefully plan and ensure the event is bigger than ever.
A preliminary event is scheduled for September in Melbourne. Raw Talent – Battle of the Bands is a competition to see who will open Raw for 2012.
Elliot is the head ranger at Victoria Falls Game Reserve. He played a vital role in the training of rangers that recently graduated from Nakavango Academy. Elliot has been stationed on the Reserve for 16 years. Aware of his appearance on ’60 Minutes’ last year he recently greeted a group of Australians in Zimbabwe with, “Hello, my name is Elliott. You would recognize me from television back home.”
Elliot’s dedication to wildlife over a lifetime is not something many could match in any ratio of commitment, be it financial or personal. He is a truly dedicated man, an incredible teacher and loyal friend.