Ranger Report: Q1 2024

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11 Jan 2022
5 min read

The Akashinga Ranger Report is a quarterly newsletter that puts you behind-the-scenes with Africa’s plant-based, all-female Akashinga Rangers. You'll be immersed in the anti-poaching rangers’ activities, experiences, and achievements as they protect, connect, and restore invaluable wilderness landscapes across Southern and East Africa.

Ranger Update: Akashinga Rangers Encouraged by 2023 Impact

Contributor: Akashinga's Duty Officer Sergeant Margaret 'Maggie' Darawanda

Akashinga Rangers set off on a patrol to establish an overnight observation post at Phundundu, near Nyamakate, Zimbabwe. Over a span of 802 patrol days, Zimbabwean rangers covered a staggering 9,296 km (5,776 mi) in 2023. (Photo: Davina Jogi)

In 2023, Akashinga Rangers conducted 802 patrols, covering over 9,296km (~5,776mi) across Zimbabwe and resulting in 286 arrests for illegal wildlife crimes. Sergeant Margaret ‘Maggie’ Darawanda, who oversees 68 rangers at Phundundu in Zimbabwe, says that Akashinga’s impact in 2023 motivates rangers in their mission to protect nature.

Highlighting the 1692 wildlife sightings recorded last year in this region, Sgt Maggie says these numbers indicate increased habitat protection and a reduced threat perception among animals. “If animals are now being seen in greater numbers, that is a sign that natural habitats are being safeguarded and they don't feel threatened.” She also notes that the decrease in poaching has led to an increase in biodiversity, with Akashinga and its Wildlife Crime Unit engaging in 67 joint operations, intercepting poaching groups 34 times, and making 286 wildlife crime-related arrests. Additionally, 93 tusks were recovered as well as 15 pangolins, six of which survived and were safely returned to the wild.

A total of 85 human-wildlife conflict cases were reported and assessed, involving species such as elephants, hyenas, leopards, and lions. Working alongside local communities, our team engaged in 22 official community meetings, fostering collaboration and understanding through continued engagement and ongoing conservation workshops.

“As a team we are winning in the game, but at the same time, these areas have been abandoned for a long time and need our ongoing support,” Sgt Maggie says. She states that the Akashinga Rangers will continue to increase their efforts in 2024, fostering coexistence between communities and wildlife, and promoting harmony with nature.

Akashinga Sergeant Major Wadzanai Munemo traverses a hilltop during an evening patrol at Phundundu. (Photo: Davina Jogi)
14 New Instructors Graduate LEAD Ranger Training
Learner instructors are pictured with AFRIC trainers Boris Vos, Richard van der Sluijs, and Ruben de Kock at the LEAD Academy in Phundundu, Zimbabwe, during the course. (Photo: Steven Dean)

On December 15th, 2023, 14 trainees graduated from LEAD Ranger’s Advanced Field Rangers’ Instructors’ Course (AFRIC) at Phundundu in Zimbabwe. This course, the culmination of a year-long intensive programme, was completed by 10 Akashinga staff (nine females, one male) and four LEAD instructors from Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda, and South Africa.

LEAD employs a train-the-trainer methodology, drawing on the expertise of instructors Ruben de Kock, Boris Vos, Richard van der Sluijs, and Stani Groeneweg, who traveled from as far as the Netherlands to conduct the courses.

AFRIC builds upon LEAD Ranger’s Basic and Intermediate Instructor Courses, focusing on Wildlife Ranger Law Enforcement, and covering Human Rights, Human Tracking, and Crime Scene First Responder Techniques, among other vital areas of learning. The curriculum also covers self-defence, firearms training, and tactical multi-day patrolling, challenging rangers to set up overnight halts instead of living in an established camp.

Training Coordinator and Instructor, Richard van der Sluijs, commends the dedication and commitment of the students, all of whom successfully completed the programme despite its demanding nature.

The course leaves a legacy of local instructors capable of training recruits and conducting refresher courses for Field Rangers. Asiyatu Phiri, a graduate and Akashinga Ranger, is grateful for the confidence she’s gained from AFRIC training as the instructors “encouraged us to think as leaders.”

Ranger Feature: Loice Matutu
Loice Matutu and her mother, Grace Zhuwakina, are pictured on the shores of Lake Kariba at Akashinga’s Songo Camp in Binga District, Zimbabwe. (Photo: Steven Dean)

Grace Nasho Zhuwakina lived and worked in Songo as a housekeeper for many years before Akashinga took over the lease and became her employer. In the world she grew up in, wildlife rangers were all men, so she never imagined that one day her daughter, Loice, would become an Akashinga Ranger. It has now been nearly two years since Loice, 24, passed her selection and training, and the young ranger says that the world opened up for her when Akashinga arrived.

Loice was initially raised by her grandmother in Sinamsanga Village after her own mother, Grace’s sister, died. However, as the elderly woman became unable to care for her and eventually also passed away, Grace adopted Loice into her own family without hesitation.  

Loice, twice orphaned and raised in a remote part of Zimbabwe, had limited opportunities to nurture her ambitions. She assisted Grace with housekeeping work and was hoping that she, too, could one day secure a job as a domestic worker in town.

Loice acknowledges that as a teenager, she was somewhat unruly and lacked direction. However, witnessing the dedication of the female rangers of Akashinga on a daily basis inspired her to strive for something greater. She also thanks Grace for her guidance, noting that “the discipline my mother instilled in me has been valuable in my job at Akashinga.” In tandem with her ranger duties, Loice is working on obtaining her driver’s license so that her work with Akashinga can take her across Zimbabwe and even further afield to places she’s never been or thought she could go.

Grace is delighted to see Loice become self-sufficient and able to pursue her dreams realistically. "I am very happy to see my daughter as a ranger," she says. "She has transformed her behaviour and lifestyle. Akashinga has enabled both of us to live better lives than before."

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