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In ops somewhere in Africa.. A little surprise party being prepared for some unwanted visitors..We have begun making arrests and seizing weapons. Several separate successful ops. Here are two suspects with weapons and contraband. Aluta continua!
Rory Young shared this photo of a poacher’s tracks.
From the large size I think that a man left these prints. Also male because the toes are close together. Women’s toes are typically more spread apart.
His toes are not digging in so I think he is walking and not running or jogging. Though for someone walking his stride is quite long, that tells me that he has long legs. So probably a tall man.
I know he is very fit with not much fat on his body because his straddle is extremely tight. Straddle is the side-to-side width of his feet from each other. An unfit person will usually carry fat on the inside of their thighs and that will make their straddle wider.
He is not carrying a heavy load. If he was carrying something heavy his toes would dig in more, his straddle would be wider and stride would be shorter.
If there was a measuring stick next to one of his feet showing the exact length of his footprint I could give you his approximate height.
So we have a tall fit man, walking confidently along with no clue that rangers are on his trail. Either he is a foolish man or he has been doing his poaching with no fear of reprisal for too long, because he is leaving a very clear trail in a sandy area making no attempt to conceal his tracks.
The second photo shows the arrested poacher and his two sons. Rory explained that while one of them was putting out the fish traps, shown in the photo, the other was setting snares and gin traps in the bush. The youngest was their lookout.
(I have told Rory that if we ever walk together in the bush I will be jumping from rock to rock and will drag a big leafy branch behind me so he won’t know all my secrets.) 🙂
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.
In the final minutes he discusses the time he was shot at when crossing from Central African Republic into Cameroon.
Give it a listen over the weekend. The sound quality is a bit rough for short periods, but recovers quickly.
Rory does the dangerous physical work in the bush, but he also meets with high level government officials to explain our doctrine and training.
He is in the bush for 3 weeks for this training session, away from his wife and two young children, missing the first day of school for his kids this year. Three weeks must seem like forever to those two little ones.
He will only accept a subsistence wage from Chengeta to make our funding stretch as far as possible even though he is worth 10x that rate.
Marjet, Rory’s wife, is back home doing her budget stretching. She is often called on to help Chengeta too. Right now she is having Chengeta t-shirts printed for the Malawi rangers receiving our training.
Just wanted to take a moment to recognize the sacrifices that Rory and his young family are making to do this work.