US Military Veterans Are Fighting A New Battle In Africa—Against Poachers

Discussion in 'Articles' started by NamStay, Dec 6, 2017.

  1. NamStay

    NamStay AH Enthusiast

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    A battle is underway in Africa’s game parks between poachers hunting down wildlife and the rangers protecting them. And the rangers have called in the troops.

    Illegal poaching has become such a major crisis that game parks across Africa are increasingly turning to active soldiers, veterans, and military technologies to protect wildlife.

    In Malawi, British soldiers are teaching rangers how to deal with Kalashnikov-toting poachers in a program supported by Prince Harry. Kenyan rangers are using military-grade equipment to track poachers with the support of the World Wildlife Fund.The organization also tried deploying drones in Namibia, until the government pushed back.

    Ryan Tate, the founder of VETPAW (Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife ), a US nonprofit started in 2013, believes military personnel are uniquely equipped to help game rangers deal with the poaching crisis. VETPAW aims to partner US veterans with African game parks to teach rangers military tactics like how to patrol large areas and conduct nighttime operations. Tate says his nonprofit is also unique in teaching “human terrain mapping,” which identifies potential poaching networks within communities and parks.

    “Instead of sending them out to find a needle in a haystack, if we could teach them how to take information and narrow down the poaching chokepoints where poachers are coming in and out of reserves, and how they’re doing it—if we could teach them those tactics, we could actually turned the tide in this crisis,” Tate says.

    VETPAW currently has six veterans working on public and private parks in South Africa—Tate won’t disclose the location for their safety—training rangers and local police. The team also works with local ecologists and conservationists to understand how to deal with the animals and terrain. “We lay a bunch of tools on the table. The rangers can pick and choose which tools they want to use,” Tate says. VETPAW is funded by donations.

    The relationship between military personnel, veterans, and rangers is not without criticism. A team of researchers from the University of Sheffield recently argued against such tactics. “This image of a benevolent ‘eco-military’ distracts from asking other important questions like what drives poaching in the first place [and] what role poverty plays,” they wrote. The article linked to a statement issued by the Game Rangers Association of Africa in April about the use of “military and security personnel and tactics” to train game rangers. Among the association’s concerns: lack of coordination, lack of suitable vetting, and a lack of appreciation for the political and cultural environment the rangers are operating in.

    Community engagement and working to eradicate the demand for wildlife products are more effective approach, critics argue.

    Tate appreciates some of these arguments, he says, but argues rangers need this type of training to meet the sophisticated tactics of poachers. “You’ve got to give these and men women a fighting chance. You have to. Anything less than that is not only cheating these men and women who are putting their lives on the line but it’s also cheating the wildlife and not giving them a fair chance,” Tate says.

    He also says that these criticisms gloss over the community and intelligence work being done by the former and active soldiers, efforts that he says help rangers find and safely apprehend poachers. “I don’t want this to become a war,” Tate says. “I’m trying to prevent that.”

    For the vets, Tate hopes the experience shows them that “they’re worth more than just fighting a war, because politicians sent them somewhere,” he says. “They get to see…that their skills took them to the most beautiful place on earth, not just the most war-torn countries on earth.”


    Source: https://qz.com/1120834/western-soldiers-are-fighting-a-new-war-in-africa-against-poachers/
     

  2. CAustin

    CAustin AH ENABLER BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    Hope they are teaching the right people and not the insiders who actually work with the poachers!
     
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  3. Hank2211

    Hank2211 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    As long as local people who live with wildlife have no stake in the existence of that wildlife, we will need anti-poaching. But make no mistake - at most, it will keep a lid on some poaching, in some places, some of the time, but it will never eliminate it or even come close.

    How much has been spent on the “war on drugs”? How much is being spent to try to prevent elephant and Rhino poaching? And how are the results looking?
     

  4. johnnyblues

    johnnyblues AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    I guess we need to do whatever it takes and for as long as it takes. There is too much at stake here.
     
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  5. Hank2211

    Hank2211 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Not sure if I agree or not. I think we need to be way smarter about this - for example, we could:

    1. Give local people an economic incentive to protect wildlife. The more valuable the wildlife (or more destructive), the greater the incentive should be.

    2. Don't make this entirely dependent on hunters. When I arrived at a camp in Zimbabwe during some of the troubles, I was told there had been no hunters in camp for a month, and no meat rations for two weeks. So before I could shoot bait for leopard, it would be great if I could shoot some bigger stuff to feed the village where the camp workers and their families lived. That was fine, but I have little doubt that in the absence of hunters, they had been taking matters into their own hands. I sure would if I had a family to feed.

    So if you can't sell all your CITES quota of elephant to hunters (I don't think Zimbabwe ever has), then some should be taken every year just for the meat.

    3. Legalize the (regulated) sale of rhino horn. No reason at all not to, and it will create lots of economic incentives, at no cost to the rhinos.

    4. Hire local people to provide anti-poaching.

    5. If the anti-poaching is doing well, either allow local hunters access to meat hunting opportunities, or allow professional hunters to provide meat on a regular basis (so long, for example, as no snares are found in the area).

    Or, we could just ban any use of wildlife and send in the soldiers to make sure that no one takes a single unlicensed animal, without differentiating between feeding your family by taking the odd duiker and organized criminals poaching elephants and rhinos. Obviously, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. We've spent billons on drug interdiction, and filled jails with drug users and traffickers, and more people are dying from drug overdoes now than ever before. The quantity and variety of drugs has never been bigger.

    Sometimes a policy fails not because you haven't spent enough on it, but because it was a bad policy in the first place.
     

  6. johnnyblues

    johnnyblues AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    All very valid points sir.
     
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  7. Shootist43

    Shootist43 AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    To me it sounds like the tactics being proposed will enhance the game ranger's skill sets in areas where they might currently lacking. This training should increase their effectiveness and improve their survivability. Lets face it, theirs' is a noble but dangerous task.
     

  8. Abeln

    Abeln AH Veteran

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    If I was a single man...
     
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  9. edward

    edward GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    i know this will not be well received but it is my opinion, kill the poachers and leave them lay where they fall,the predators will take care of the rest,lets get this poaching thing over with once and for all,and screw whats politically correct.
     
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  10. edward

    edward GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    if i was younger.
     
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