HARARE, Zimbabwe, July 29, 2021 (Newswire.com) - Ranger Margaret Darawanda has not looked back since she joined the International Anti-Poaching Foundation's all-female Akashinga conservation program that is expanding its footprint across southern Africa, protecting the natural world.
The International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), founded by former Australian special forces soldier Damien Mander, is inching closer towards its goal of deploying 1,000 Akashinga rangers across 20 reserves throughout the region by 2026.
Last month, 25 new rangers graduated from basic training, and in early September they will be joined by 46 more, enabling three reserves under IAPF management to begin receiving full and regular patrols.
Ms Darawanda, 24, who was part of the first intake of Akashinga rangers to start patrolling Phundundu Wildlife Area in the Zambezi Valley in Zimbabwe in 2017, said: "I think it's a special thing protecting something that cannot protect itself."
After completing her training, Ms Darawanda soon found her stride patrolling, collecting and keeping records, tracking and arresting poachers, investigating and educating the local community about the importance of wildlife. She has also become the proud breadwinner for her entire family who live in the nearby village of Nyamakate - her widowed mother, her two-year-old daughter and her four siblings, some of whom have families of their own.
The opportunity to become a ranger came when the IAPF moved into her area just after she completed high school, and while she acknowledges there are hardships with her role as a ranger, it can also be very rewarding. "I just loved that day when we rescued a lion from a snare ... it was not that badly hurt as it only had its leg caught, but because it was not able to free itself, we had to help it. It had been there a day."
She has also been amazed at the amount of wildlife that has returned to the area since the Akashinga began patrols - it was unheard of to see elephant, leopard and hippo four years ago, but now they are regularly sighted. "It's very different from when we started. You'd see maybe old elephant dung, or old animal spoors meaning there were not a lot of animals active in the area, and we would only see a few of the smaller antelope."
Mr Mander said rangers form the first and last line of defence for nature, and at a time when Covid-19 had brought civilization to its knees as a direct result of the way that humanity treats the natural world, the importance of a ranger and the role they fulfil in society had never been more prominently highlighted. "We need to be giving an increased amount of focus as a global community into the protection of nature and rangers are at the front of that fight," Mr Mander said.
"For the IAPF, every day is World Ranger Day as we deploy hundreds of rangers out protecting nature in some of the most remote and hostile locations on the African continent," he said. "But for the rest of the world, today is a day to come together and celebrate the hard work and often thankless task that these rangers perform on behalf of all of us."
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Source: International Anti-Poaching Foundation