It’s no great secret that elephants are a prime target for poachers in Africa. Rangers have been trying for years to think up better strategies to save their pachyderms, though not always successfully, as evidenced by the loss of Mountain Bull, a famous elephant in Kenya.
But recently, steps have been taken to level the playing field a little more. Poachers have killed rangers in the pursuit of their ill-gotten gains, so rangers must learn to fight back if they hope to stay alive. Now, an international effort has been launched to help them. Military troops have, for the past few years, been more and more incited by poaching activity to help protect elephants, rhinos, and other endangered African species by teaching the rangers basic training tactics that may just save their own lives as well as the lives of the animals they’ve pledged to protect.
Last year, British troops took the initiative, sending in people to the South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve to teach rangers there, and the Ichikowitz Family Foundation gave them equipment necessary to do their job more effectively. Before this, the park rangers were so poorly equipped they didn’t even have boots. But now they have rifles with scopes, flashlights, and other things needed to deter the poachers before they can kill the animals. The poachers seemed to have left Madikwe alone for the past year, but elsewhere the poaching continues unabated.
Now, the United States has decided to join in. Recently, they sent Marines to Zakouma National Park in Chad to help train rangers there to protect their elephants. Poachers wiped out the majority of the parks elephants between 206 and 2009 while the country was in the midst of civil war, but now that things are settled down again, these elephants have begun to repopulate.
Back in 2012, poachers murdered six park rangers along with the elephants they’d come to kill, and these violent skirmishes continue as a well-organized crime syndicate continues to send poachers in, using the funds made from the ivory to bolster their terrorist activities. So, since they rangers appear to be at war, they may as well be prepared for it.
With this in mind, Lieutenant John Porter led fifteen fellow Marines from the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa to help. Porter said, “This was basically skills that we use in the Marine Corps that we transferred over to them for them to use as they see fit in their own personal missions in the future.”
However, US involvement in the cessation of poaching does not stop there. Back in November, US Secretary of State John Kerry actually announced a $1 million reward program to combat the illegal wildlife trafficking trade. The US is prepared to pay up to one million dollars for information leading to the dismantling of the Laos-based Xaysavang Network, considered the world’s most prolific crime group involved in trafficking wildlife. The group has affiliates in Africa and Asia, where the demand for ivory and rhino horns have caused poaching activities to increase exponentially.
Zakouma National Park: