In reflecting on 2019, we recognize that our work over the past year was both challenging and highly productive for the Chengeta Wildlife mission. We have continued to develop and refine our results-driven, adaptive and holistic approach to prevent wildlife poaching and trafficking whilst we support and assist communities to benefit from and live within crucial and protected ecosystems in a harmonious and sustainable manner.
Below is a short overview of what has been happening in 2019 and what the plans are for 2020!
In spite of the continued deterioration in the security situation in the Gourma and extremely dangerous and difficult conditions for our trainers and partners in coordination with the combined army-ranger anti-poaching brigade, no desert elephants were poached in 2019! Our trainer-mentors continue to work with our primary partner, the Mali Elephant Project, to support the brigade in deterring poaching, understanding and avoiding threats and confrontation, and providing humanitarian assistance to isolated communities.
Central African Republic (CAR)
In Dzanga Sangha Protected Areas, our anti-poaching training and mentoring work conducted in partnership with WWF CAR and with funding support from the Elephant Crisis Fund has continued to develop. We have now trained 100 rangers to the highest standard for this area and the results speak for themselves… For the first time in over thirty years, there have been no known forest elephants poached for eight months! Furthermore, relations between the rangers and the communities surrounding the protected areas have gone from negative sentiments to positive approvals and recognition of their dedication of their efforts. Relationships between ranger patrols and the communities is a focus of our mentorship program and we anticipate these relationships will continue to improve. Our canine team members, Mitch and Bobby, also continue to help advance our mission, most notably in the detection of ammunition and drugs used as currency between poachers and traffickers.
Geospatial Analytics Team
For the first time, our geospatial analytics team under the direction of Dr. Odean Serrano has been able to provide invaluable support both for law enforcement operations, humanitarian efforts and the conservation work under Wild Foundation. We have also developed the first geospatial "Common Operating Picture" (COP) for the Dzanga Sangha Protected Areas that integrates and analyzes anti-poaching patrol observations, and other illegal activities within the projected areas, with biodiversity monitoring and conservation research to provide a more complete picture of ecosystem we support. The geo-analytic "COP" is crucial for understanding and visualizing near real-time situations within a given area and identifying hotspots and trends for mission planning efforts that enhance poaching interdiction operations.
Our support of indigenous and local communities living in and around conservation areas has advanced dramatically through our partnership with Wild Foundation in Mali and now Burkina Faso. The success of this advancement is attributed to the efforts of our new Director for Socio-Cultural Research and Engagement, Dr. Carolyn Jost Robinson. With support from PhD candidate Liz Hall and local community leaders, Dr. Jost Robinson began crucial socio-cultural research and engagement with the communities living in and around the Dzanga Sangha Protected Areas in CAR.
Our Regional Director for Francophone Africa, Jean-Baptiste Mamang-Kanga, a former Parks and Wildlife Director for the Central African Republic, has worked hard to expand our partnerships and collaboration with regional organizations. These strategic partnerships are crucial to mission success and include organizations such as the UN MINUSCA mission in CAR, Small Arms Survey and the governments with whom we partner and support in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) and Mali. Our partnerships have continued to grow, most notably with WWF Germany, WWF CAR, WWF DRC and Wild Foundation.
New projects - looking forward
Over the last year our work has started expanding to other countries and important conservation areas, including the Republic of Congo and Cameroon. We will soon begin training rangers in Burkina Faso and in an important area of the Democratic Republic of Congo. We will keep everyone apprised of these exciting and challenging new projects as they develop.
Sadly, whilst our work has been very successful, the poaching and trafficking of endangered species, the destruction of protected habitat and the marginalization of traditional hunter-gatherer communities continue on a scale never seen before and therefore the need for our work continues to grow exponentially. We intend to meet that challenge with all the energy, passion and determination we can muster. As of today, we have scheduled training for close to 750 rangers in 2020.
Our integrated and holistic system, combining research and analytics, community outreach and support, ranger training, doctrine and mentoring, and investigations liaison and support is now finally being put into practice in all domains and at all levels. Our dedicated and visionary team members continue to put all of their knowledge into developing these multidisciplinary solutions and imparting them willingly to the organizations and individuals we strive to support.
Last but not least, I would like to THANK YOU, our benefactors, supporters and volunteers without whom none of these successes would be possible. We appreciate your generosity and hope that you are able to help us start 2020 strong by making a tax-deductible gift and joining us in our fight to stop poaching and support local communities. Your single or recurring donation today of $20 per month will ensure the rangers we assist will continue to be equipped with the very best skills and resources to save wildlife, protect our ecosystems, and empower local communities!