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Written by LOGAN FORBES
In an age of many endangered and declining species, all rightly deserving of our concern and protection, it’s difficult to know where my contribution will have the greatest impact.
Like everyone, there’s a limit to the funds I can set aside for charitable giving, and because of that, I need to choose wisely.
Today, I chose to donate to, and here’s why:
On a daily basis, there are reports of poaching events across Africa; endangered animals slaughtered, sickening images of elephant and rhino left for dead, heartbreaking photos of their orphaned calves, and the irretrievable damage done to our environment, and for what? Greed, status and adherence to medicinal remedies with no basis in fact.
Added to that, the results of the pan African elephant census are starting to come in and the news is, as predicted — bleak.
An elephant is a unique creature.They’re a keystone species and hold great importance to our environment.
They have been proven to be sentient beings; they celebrate births and reunions, comfort one another, grieve over lost friends and family and have shown altruistic tendencies towards each other as well as other species.
Elephants know they’re in a war with man; a war they had no part in starting. They know the “who”, “what” and the “where”. What they don’t know is “why?”.
Elephants can’t fight back. They have no chance to win this unjust battle raging against them. Their horror at seeing their fellow species slaughtered must surely be compounded by the empathy they feel toward one another.
is the co-creator of an anti-poaching doctrine that works. I know it works from field reports and multiple published articles describing the ranger’s unprecedented success.
Even a layperson like me can rejoice in a headline proclaiming “81 arrests in 12 days“. At the very least, I know 81 possible poaching events were prevented; due directly to thefunded training program.
During that particular training session, no humans and no animals were injured or killed. The rangers learned invaluable skills to prevent poaching and protect their citizens and natural resources from criminals. And, they’re now equipped to instruct others to do the same.
is funding these training sessions through private donations from individuals like me. I know my money is going to an organization that doesn’t funnel donations into administrative costs.
Every donation, regardless of amount, directly benefits an endangered animal’s life. Existing personnel will be trained to tackle poaching in a manner proven to be effective.
I can’t ask for more than that.
Here is the link to the current fundraising campaign.
If you can, please make a contribution.
*When you make a donation of any amount (from $1.00 up to $10,000), it will be matched, tripling your donation.
has pledged to match the next $10,000 in donations to Chengeta Wildlife
An Anonymous donor will also match the next $10,000 and,
will match the next $2,000!
For example: If you donate $50, Ellen, William and Anonymous will each contribute $50 increasing your total donation to $200.00!
Please take a moment to contribute to this worthy cause and let’s all do what we can to stop the scourge of poaching that’s destroying our cherished and irreplaceable wildlife and natural environment!
What does Britain’s most highly decorated living Royal Marine do with the education and skills gained during his exemplary years in the military?
Matthew Croucher GC protects endangered African wildlife. He recently co-founded, Action Against Poaching (AAP), a non profit organisation offering direct and proactive support to Anti-Poaching initiatives in Africa.
Matt has asked to join Chengeta Wildlife anti-poaching specialist, Rory Young, for an upcoming ranger training session,
“It will give me the opportunity to see what Chengeta is achieving first hand and where we could potentially assist.”
Collaboration with AAP could be a game changer for Chengeta. Other ex-military specialists Matt plans to bring into AAP could facilitate getting Chengeta’s proven anti-poaching training to more wildlife rangers who are facing armed poachers without the proper skills.
From Rory Young, “I am honoured to be able to work with such a man and excited to have him contribute to our training.”
More aboutfrom Wikipedia:
Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher GC, VR (born in 1983) is a member of the Royal Marines Reserve and a recipient of the George Cross, the highest British and Commonwealth medal for gallantry not in the face of the enemy, for his extreme valour in risking his life to safeguard the lives of his comrades.
Croucher was recommended for the award for throwing himself on a Taliban tripwire grenade to save his comrades. He was part of a reconnaissance mission near Sangin in Helmand Province in Afghanistan.
On 9 February 2008 whilst moving through a compound at night he felt a trip-wire against his leg and saw that he had activated a grenade. He threw himself to the ground and used his rucksack to pin the grenade to the floor and tucked his legs up to his body. He was thrown some distance by the explosion, but due to the protection offered by his rucksack and body-armour, suffered only a nose-bleed, perforated ear drums and some disorientation. The pack was ripped from his back by the explosion, and his body armour and helmet were pitted by grenade fragments. Of the other three members of his patrol, the rear man managed to take cover by retreating round the corner of a building; the patrol commander threw himself to ground, and received a superficial face wound from a grenade fragment; and the final team member did not have time to react, and remained on his feet, and would have been within the lethal range of the grenade but for Croucher’s action. The explosion breached a large lithium battery which was in Croucher’s pack to power the patrol’s electronic countermeasures equipment, causing it to burst into flames. A medic recommended that he be evacuated, but he insisted on continuing as the members of the patrol realised Taliban fighters would probably come to investigate the explosion, and this would give the marines the opportunity to ambush them.
Croucher was presented with the GC by Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace on 30 October 2008. Croucher is one of only 22 living recipients of the medal of which only 406 have been awarded.
Matt is standing directly behind HRH Queen Elizabeth II
Rory Young, exactly two years ago I first messaged you asking if I could help your efforts to fight the explosion of poaching that was wiping out wildlife in Africa. You accepted my offer immediately and just three months later we co-founded Chengeta Wildlife.
Thank you for opening my eyes to the horror you were facing and giving those of us far away from the front lines a way to take action.
We’ve been building an incredible team and I can’t wait to see what all of us accomplish over the next two years and beyond.
A Burpee chin-up challenge has been thrown down! Take a look, friends!
Hailing from Bern, Switzerland, standing at 5’6″, fighting weight 132 lbs, a young man of 23 years, coached by the legendary Aaron Ellis. He’s been training for months folks. As a medical student, he’s got a trick or two up his sleeve. Our challenger: Bhavesh…”Doll Face”…AGGARWAL!!!!!
In the ranger’s corner hailing from the wilds of the African bush, standing at 6′, fighting weight more than 132lbs, 43 years old. He has been trained by adversity – he chews bullets for breakfast and takes down poachers at a rate of 81 arrests in 12 days. He’s been in training since his birth in Zambia. Accepting the challenge on behalf of those who protect wildlife everywhere: Rory…”Roarin’ Rory”…YOUNG!!!!
Here’s how it works:
To make things more interesting we have added incentives to the crowdfunding campaign. These incentives also apply to pledges made on the burpee chin-up competition. These prizes will be awarded only if our campaign tips. Remember we lose the thousands already pledged if our campaign doesn’t reach the tipping point!
$500 donation – Skype call with Rory. Ask Rory a question related to his anti-poaching work or talk about the latest in bush wear or both. It’s up to the two of you what you discuss.
$250 contribution – Rory will record a video shout out to you from the bush to be uploaded to Chengeta Wildlife’s Youtube channel. Get your friends, family or co-workers to contribute small amounts towards the goal and get a group shout out!
$100 donation – An approved photo of you or your group will be added to the “Honorary Ranger” gallery on Chengeta Wildlife’s website.
Vote for the man you think will win the challenge in the comments. Those who pick the right gentleman will be featured in a video from Rory and Bhavesh. Videos of the burpee chin-up competition will be posted after our funding campaign ends on Thursday. Only 4 days left to pledge!
The battle of the decade has begun, ladies and gentlemen. On the one hand, we have experience, mental focus, and years of relentless training. On the other, we have an iron will, enthusiasm, and street cred. Both equipped with a killer instinct and a sense of purpose, this will be a face off for the title of the top badass. Who will it be? The honey badger born and bred in the concrete jungle, or the ranger raised in Mother Nature’s own cradle? Place your bets, folks!
Written by Jamie Joseph on Savingthewild.com
It’s twilight in Malawi when I catch Rory Young on the phone, camped out with his fellow rangers somewhere deep in the African bush. There is a sense of urgency in his voice, like he has many important things to tell me, but really there is so much more work to be done.
“Let’s just focus on the task at hand,” he interrupts me when I deviate, commenting I had read that when he was just 17 years old he was, at the time, possibly the youngest person to have ever earned his wings in the French Foreign Legion.
“There have been 81 poaching arrests in just under two weeks,” Rory continues. “If we had been shooting first and asking questions later we would have dealt with only a fraction of this number and would have almost certainly sustained casualties.”
Populations of elephants in Malawi have halved in recent years, and the government has now decided enough is enough. They have committed to burning their entire ivory stockpile, symbolically important, and there are plans to include conservation in the school curriculum, teaching children the importance of wildlife and the real value of wildlife to tourism and the country’s economy. There is now political will.
Zambian born Rory Young has been tracking Africa’s wild ever since he was a little boy. In Zimbabwe he successfully completed a five year rigorous apprenticeship to become a forest ranger, of which only 5% pass. After more than two decades tracking in the field, and suddenly in the midst of another poaching crisis, it was crystal clear to him that a lot of the people who had fought in the first war on poaching in the eighties were now retired, or had been replaced by younger, less experienced rangers who had grown up after the counter insurgency operations of his generation, and who had no training or experience in the very specific skills needed to overcome such a crisis.
This was the seed from which Chengeta Wildlife was born, an organisation that raises money to train wildlife protection teams, because, frankly, throughout most of Africa there simply aren’t the funds available to properly upskill rangers, and so the death toll continues to rise, for both animals and humans.
The key here is pragmatic doctrine. In the race to stop the blood flow, right across Africa ex military are taking military doctrine and trying to apply it to anti poaching.
“It does not work,” says Rory. “In anti poaching you do not have a military structure. Each man in a military unit plays his part, whereas in anti poaching the reality is the men need to be incredibly versatile because they are operating independently in small groups in isolated areas. Through our Chengeta network of expertise we have created a doctrine very specific to anti poaching, and then we further tailor it to each park. Part of this doctrine is teaching rangers all the skills that would collectively be taught to the military, or the police, or intelligence agencies; how to go undercover and gather information from other sources, how to do reactive investigations, how to analyse all of the information gathered and then take that information and plan future operations. We teach them all the tactics of pursuit, apprehension, post apprehension and interrogation and to then roll up the networks using the information from arrested poachers.”
In the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, for the entire 2014 there was 21 arrests. Under Rory’s guidance they made 21 arrests in half a day. And that is because they’re putting stop groups in the right places at the right time. They work out where the poachers entry and exit the protected area and their movements, especially choke points, and then they set up covert apprehensions. They’re coordinating with tracking teams, observation posts and undercover officers so that every step of the way they can catch them in various positions.
“This kind of anti poaching is not being taught throughout the vast majority of anti poaching operations in Africa,” continues Rory. “There is the assumption that if the boots on the ground isn’t working we should bring in the drones, or some other magic warfare, but there is no silver bullet. Just look at Kruger National Park (KNP), they are failing because they are trying to run it as a military structure.”
In Liwonde, where black rhinos are severely threatened, between February and March Malawi rangers made 33 arrests in two weeks with just 30 men, one old boat captured from poachers, and one and a half vehicles – they only had access to a second vehicle some of the time. Compare that with KNP, with thousands of men, helicopters, drones, vehicle fleets, army and air force support, and there was just 28 rhino poaching arrests in April, and that was a sharp improvement.
I question if that is because South Africa still doesn’t have an effective hot pursuit agreement with Mozambique, and most of the poachers are coming over the border from Mozambique.
“That’s not it,” replies the intense strategist. “Because there is a whole series of steps you can take. You can catch them at point of entry, at market, or exit point – there are many different places you can tackle poaching. But all of that requires intelligence. Shoot on sight is stupid. If we had been shooting on sight during this latest sting operation we would have shot a handful of poachers and that would have been the end of it. Every single poacher is an opportunity for information to get more poachers and work your way up the chain to the ringleaders.”
We go on to discuss the poverty link to the poaching crisis, and how vital it is that governments and NGOs address this problem. Poverty leaves the local villages living near wildlife vulnerable, with the fathers and sons recruited by criminal syndicates to do the dirty work and pay the highest price, often leaving behind widows and orphans.
The very latest figure – 81 arrests in 12 days, is impressive, and must be some kind of record, but I’m quick to point out that the conviction rates of poachers right across Africa is less than 10%. It’s no secret that evidence is often tampered with and mysteriously goes missing once in police custody, so how is Chengeta’s way of teaching rangers to handle evidence any different?
Says Rory, “We teach a complete doctrine, right through to the courts, making sure the dossiers are correctly put together so that the prosecutors have all the information they need. We maximise the ranger’s effectiveness. I’ve been training rangers for the last three years in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Guinea, and as far as I know we’ve never lost evidence. Malawi is in the middle of redoing all its legislation, they know they need to introduce much harsher sentences so that the law actually acts as a deterrent, however in the meantime a committee has been formed made up of judiciary, police, army, parks and wildlife, and intelligence services to make sure they get more convictions. The evidence that is now being handed over to the judiciaries is light years ahead of what it was before. “
Through the Chengeta training, the rangers are taught how to create a dossier with all the evidence and everything is signed off by two police officers, and the rangers get a copy of that. Then it goes straight to the prosecutor and they have to sign for it. Then everyone has a copy, and if something does go astray the organisation that lost the evidence can be charged with deliberately tampering with evidence.
However funds have recently dried up and Rory continues to work pro bona. As soon as more donations come in Chengeta can take on another six protected areas in Malawi, including one Transfrontier Park and a World Heritage Site.
Concludes Rory, “There have been requests from a dozen African countries to conduct the training. Right now our focus is fundraising to provide training to Africa’s least developed countries that need the most help.”
National Geographic story with Chengeta Director Rory Young: Anti poaching – high tech versus boots on the ground.
If you would like to support Chengeta Wildlife please visit their website here.
Each 30 day training session costs approximately US$18,000 which is spent on:
• Rental of vehicles and boats for anti-poaching operations (if needed)
• Fuel for vehicles and boats
• Daily rations for trainers and participants
• Shelter for trainers and participants
• Airfare and transportation for trainers to/from camp location
• Trainer remuneration
• Printed field guides and other education materials
• Training supplies when needed: compasses, water bottles, radios
On my way to do further training of Zimbabwe Republic Police and scouts in the Nyaminyami area I received a message from a third party to “report to Office of the President in Kariba” (OP is the Zimbabwe Central Intelligence Organization- the local secret police goons).
After a full and thorough interrogation I was told that I was “not allowed to train anyone and if I did I would be arrested”. When I protested that I had been given a two year residence permit in order to train anti poaching personnel, that I was training police with the authority of Police HQ and with the permission of the appropriate authority for the area, I was told to shut up, that they were “above the police”, and that even if I had done nothing wrong they would find a reason to arrest me and throw away the key unless I stayed “away from the area and did no training in Zimbabwe”. No explanation was given and they clearly didn’t care if it was obvious that they are involved in poaching or trafficking. They were so stupid, arrogant especially incompetent that they actually bragged that two Europeans working for NGO’s in the Kariba area were keeping them informed of all activities in the parks and adjacent wildlife areas, and that if I did any anti poaching work with the police or parks that they would know immediately.
I ceased all anti poaching training, ops and other assistance in Zimbabwe and we only used Zim as our base of residence, continuing our efforts all over Africa, while we planned to leave in good time, staying well away from the Kariba area and not saying a word about Zimbabwe.
Unfortunately CIO didn’t stop there and we began to hear via third parties that CIO were making more threats against me, obviously to ensure I didn’t come back to the area. They wanted me and anyone like far away from Matusadona and Nyaminyami. I subsequently heard that another well-known international anti poaching organization was told to stay away and also threatened.
Aside from the worry that I might be “picked up” or disappear without my family knowing every time I landed at Harare airport on my return from anti poaching training and ops in other countries, we had to sit and watch the number of reports of elephants being poached in the Matusadona, Nyaminyami and other areas sky rocket to the point where there are now almost daily reports. Previously in one of the main areas we had been training and advising we had reached a point where there had been zero eles poached in many months.
We finally scraped together enough to get out and are determined to redouble our efforts in those places where we are welcomed and where we are currently enjoying unprecedented successes. However, we left Zimbabwe with heavy hearts.
Now you know who is behind the poaching of the elephants in Northern Zimbabwe and why we left Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s government is desperate for cash and this is why they are going to the extremes they are, such as tearing wild baby elephants away from their mothers and herds and sending them to China. What people don’t realise though is that Mugabe’s political party and his secret police minions are desperate for cash too. CIO needs cash to pay its secret informers who spy on their neighbours and report any opposition. That cash has to come from somewhere and whilst the official government departments use legal but unethical means to raise funds, the political and secret security appartus and often the army use any means they can.
They (CIO and ZANU PF) are nothing less than an organized crime syndicate. They are behind the poaching in Zimbabwe and as they become more desperate they are going to “allow” more of it. Don’t be fooled when there is a report of Zambian poachers being shot. That is just them allowing parks or police to deal with the competition. When CIO is behind it no one does a thing. With their tentacles reaching every corner of every village they could shut down the poaching in Zimbabwe in a day.
Zimbabweans cannot talk about any of this or even comment on this post for example. It is one thing to take on National Parks for exporting baby elephants legally albeit unethically but they cannot breathe a word against CIO and mention the fact that they are the biggest and most ruthless mafia in Zimbabwe.
Edit: Thank you for all the words of support. My work with Chengeta Wildlife will continue in Malawi, Guinea and elsewhere. Where there is a political will to fight poaching and support rule of law this war can be won!
As long as we can get on the ground we will keep fighting this war. If you can, please donate. If you can’t donate, please spread the word. We are an organization with zero overhead and all funds go to our work in the field.
I promise we are doing all we can to line up funding from larger organizations so we don’t have to lean on you guys so much in the future. That said, if you have any amount that you could donate, I would be forever grateful.
We have set up an easy new way to donate through our partners at ALERT.
Supporters in the UK can text APTR05 to 70070 to give £5
or text APTR10 to 70070 to give £10.
(APTR stands for Anti-Poaching TRaining.)
US donors can text any donation amount to (415) 319-6494. The first time you will have to fill in the bare minimum of information. In the future you can donate by simply texting the amount you would like to give to the number above.
Rory Young – I guess for the last year my “go-to story” has sort of followed me around as everyone heard about it and wanted to hear it first hand, maybe see if I was psychic or glowing..
I have had many close or unpleasant experiences. I remember vividly being caught in a lightning storm on top “Turret Towers” , the highest point on Mounton the Mozambique-Zimbabwe border. The storm came in just as we reached the top. We stripped off our packs, watches and any other metal and squeezed ourselves into crevices. The lightning repeatedly hammered the rocks above us. It was deafening, terrifying and magnificent.
Many times I have run for cover in the bush and joked with others that they would be number 300 not me (a reference to the daily newspaper lightning death toll).
I have always been careful and not taken any chances.
So imagine my surprise when, in the middle of the night, I got out of bed to close a lounge window and was struck by bloody lightning..
It was raining heavily and I was snug as a bug when I suddenly remembered that the lounge window was open. So I went to close it.
The floor and the wall were drenched. I had to open the gauze window inwards whilst leaning against the wet wall and standing in the puddle. Holding it with one hand I reached out and grasped the handle of the other window. The windows and frame, it turned out, were not earthed and neither was the roof. As I held them I was effectively standing holding up a lightning conductor.
There was a flash and it felt like every cell in my body had exploded individually. I flew back across the room.
My wife heard it happen and came running from the bedroom and found me standing shaking with my mouth open and staring fixedly at my arms. I had them stretched out in front of me. I remember the reason for this well. I was amazed that they were still there. Just before I lifted them I had been certain they were gone.
I had a stiff scotch and a painkiller and started to feel a bit better. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. After a while I felt incredibly tired so went to bed.
In the morning I felt a bit odd but otherwise fine, so I went for a run. I had planned to do an 18km run with my little club that morning and didn’t want to let the side down. So, against my dear wife’s objections I went and ran.
The run started out okay but by the end it felt as though my eyes and ears were deceiving me. It was as if what I heard and saw and thought were out of sync. Afterwards I was tired again and went to bed. I slept 14 hours.
I woke up with an excruciating migraine and painful eyes. I was up for a few hours and then went to bed again and slept deeply for another 16 hours. When I woke up my head and eyes were so painful I could hardly move. A Russian doctor friend who had heard about it told me to listen to my lovely wife and get me to a hospital as often the symptoms came later.
At the hospital they did an EKG on my heart and told me it was all over the place. My potassium level was through the roof. There was a scare for a while until I was eventually given the all clear by an excellent cardiologist who told me I was extremely lucky to be alive (don’t need to be a cardiologist to figure that bit out). I had a bunch of further tests and continued to suffer a permanent migraine and photosensitivity for months. Eventually the pain subsided and after about nine months my eyes were back to normal.
Other side effects were an inability to talk to people, I battled to handle conversation, it was as though I couldn’t differentiate between the different voices and other sounds around me; they all came at once. I slept for 16 hours a day easily. A really strange side-effect was that my blood-sugar went from borderline diabetic to normal and has stayed that way ever since.
It is now just over a year and I am back to normal and getting properly fit again.
I am shit-scared of lightning.
I recently arrived in Liwonde National Park in Southern Malawi. I am here to train 30 experienced anti poaching officers in advanced anti poaching operations for 30 days.
The training is fully funded by Chengeta Wildlife and organized by ALERT. University of Coventry are also now actively working through information I have and will be sending them, in order to figure out how to quantify the results of the training and doctrine and to then start actively researching the results. They are also analyzing the field manual, videos of previous training and other material to further develop the doctrine and training manuals.
You may remember the last training done at Liwonde, which was for the heads of law enforcement from each park in Malawi. The training was 20 days and very successful. Not only in terms of what the men learnt but also in teams of the success of the in operations part of the training, where poachers, traffickers and a whole network was taken down.
This time the training will be for the anti poaching rangers working in Liwonde itself. I will also have four assistants, all of whom participated in the training in September last year. They will become future instructors for the department.
In January the area managers and deputy directors of the department participated in a training workshop in the capital, Lilongwe, again funded by Chengeta Wildlife and organized by Alert. The workshop could only take place over a few days as it is very difficult to get everyone together during such difficult times. The workshop was very important as it allowed the senior personnel to understand what the anti poaching teams and leaders are actually learning and how they can be most effectively deployed.
After the Lilongwe workshop I made a one week trip to Liwonde again. This was to follow up on and assess how the training is being used by team leaders and to determine whether it is proving effective. I was also asked to advise the park manager on putting together a wet season program for the park, which I did.
I was delighted to hear from the park manager that in the three months since the September training, arrests had trebled in comparison to the three months preceding the training. 80 percent of these arrests have been directly attributed to skills and techniques not previously utilized and learned by the team leaders during the training.
The park manager agreed with my suggestion during our planning session that he should establish a “special operations and investigations unit” comprised of the most experienced, trustworthy, capable and dedicated officers to tackle the biggest and most serious threats. We put together the team immediately, headed by one of the best participants in the previous training and I headed out for a few days patrol with them to see for myself how the leader is implementing his training, the capabilities of the officers, the local poaching situation and how they are dealing with it.
Our mission was an area reconnaissance of an area not usually accessible to the rangers. We would look at possible access routes for future ops and then assess the poaching activity in the area.
In three days we found five poachers’ camps, were fired on by a twit with an old muzzle loader, and encountered two other groups of poachers, as well as numerous newly set snares.
There have been floods in Malawi, with over three hundred people killed and Liwonde is part of the affected area. The entire area was a morass, with swamps of black clay that was very difficult to move through, often waist deep. We also had to ford rivers without ropes or other safety equipment, relying on strong grips and branches instead.
Unfortunately we could not pursue the poachers far in such conditions and with no support. However, we had the information we had come to get. I had to leave but the team would redeploy, properly prepared and equipped for pursuit in those conditions, and with adequate support.
I have now heard the results of that deployment. The team recovered over 850 snares and steel gin traps in five days! Furthermore, arrests were made and the access points are now known and regularly patrolled.
In the coming four weeks, the Liwonde rangers will be doing a lot of theory and practical training. Finally we will launch a series of in ops training operations and we aim to give the poaching networks in the area a big shock.
Lisa Groeneweg suggested I post a running logbook/diary as we progress through the training and ops. I cannot post a lot of information because of operational security, and have been very hesitant to do so in the past.
However, I will try to post something that is not too sensitive as and when possible, even if it is only a picture or a quick few lines.
This work has begun to make a massive impact and word has spread all over Africa about the effectiveness of our training, not just in terms of anti poaching but also in sensitizing the communities to the need to protect their resources.
Thank you for your continued support.
Gigi and Conrad
Leonid S. Knyshov
Stefan Von Imhof
John James Morton
Rick Van Otterloo