By William Oborne
Three years ago two former Australian special forces soldiers Damien Mander and Steven Dean gave up all they had and came to Zimbabwe to apply the skills they had learnt in the Australian army to the war against poaching.
They set up camps in the then north of the country to train up rangers who could help protect endangered species. I stayed in their camp for two months and joined in their fight against poaching on the front line.
While the occasional encounter with armed poachers kept me on edge, patrolling with the International Anti Poaching Foundation (IAPF) through bush heavily populated with dangerous game earned me a fantastic first-hand education of African wildlife.
Our duties included arresting poachers, removing snares, rescuing trapped wildlife and reporting on wildlife movements.
During my time with them they taught me lots about how to track the endangered species they are striving to protect, as well as the beautiful birdlife. By the end of the trip I was thrilled to find I could identify whichever animal tracks I saw.
We’d sleep with the rangers in their tents and the day would start with fifteen minutes of physical training. Then we’d go out with the guys on patrol, walking from about 7am till 11ish. On the first day the guys saw some vultures circling so they thought something must have happened so we went outside the reserve and found a buffalo which had been snared. The poachers had laid out a little trap. The buffalo was dead.
We would normally go back to camp for lunch, then we’d go out in patrol in the afternoon and could potentially squeeze more exercises into the evening. More....