African Parks has the largest counter-poaching force in all of Africa, and is responsible for all anti-poaching efforts across the parks we manage, which involves continuous training, equipping, deployment, and remuneration of law enforcement personnel. We employ almost 600 rangers across the parks, and their training is essential in order to protect these landscapes, wildlife, surrounding communities, and even themselves.
The thousands of foot, horseback, boat, vehicle and aerial patrols we conduct year round are also complemented by networks of supporting communities who provide information on poachers and other illegal activities. The law enforcement personnel protecting the parks are often the only stabilizing force in the region, providing security for both wildlife and people.
Law Enforcement Training
Proper and frequent training is one of the most important elements of creating an able and well-disciplined law enforcement team to counter illegal activities and effectively manage the park. Poaching across most of Africa, including many of the parks we manage, is increasingly carried out by well organised and heavily outfitted crime syndicates and even terrorist groups, who deal in the trafficking of elephant ivory, rhino horn, game meat, and other animal parts including bones and skins. In these situations, the level of training needs to be enhanced to ensure law enforcement is able to cope with these highly volatile environments. Other parks are in well-governed countries, where the rule of law is still in place and intact, and in these instances, law enforcement teams need to be trained in interacting with communities who often have legal rights to be inside the park.
“Boots on the ground” is the cornerstone of all protected area management. Well-trained and equipped law enforcement teams have the ability to protect the park and its natural resources, whether it be from illegal fishermen, bushmeat poachers, or even highly militarised ivory poachers. Regular foot patrols provide a noticeable presence of qualified rangers in the parks, and position units to react to and counter illegal activity in a timely way. Often just the knowledge that they are on the ground patrolling the park, serves as a major deterrent to poaching.
Removal of Snares
Wire nares are widely used to capture animals for bushmeat. They are cheap, easy to set, and are indiscriminate, capturing anything that walks through its path, often resulting in horrific injuries and a slow and torturous death. The impact snares are having across Africa is the largest contributor to the ongoing bushmeat crisis.
Besides deterring the setting of snares in the first place, foot patrols are able to disassemble and remove snares throughout the parks, of which tens of thousands of snares have been removed to date.
Staying ahead of poachers is a vital part of effective law enforcement, and given the vast landscapes our teams at African Parks have to manage, helicopters and other types of aircrafts serve as “eyes in the sky” providing the critical, real-time surveillance needed to adequately protect the park. They can also help deploy law enforcement teams, or even provide rescue operations in emergency situations, saving human lives.
In unique instances, parks need the services of specialised teams to counter the most pressing threats. The parks “Rapid Response Units” who are made of up the best of the best, are a group of highly skilled and well-equipped individuals who are trained to respond to specific threats. In Chad, many of the poachers travel by horseback, so our law enforcement teams have been trained to do the same. In Akagera in Rwanda, a dog unit has been set up to protect endangered and heavily targeted species by poachers, like rhinos, and enable law enforcement to track down clearly identified groups of individuals.