Stopping wildlife poachers in their tracks in Africa

Lion, elephant and rhino – three of Africa’s majestic Big Five are all in increasing danger of extinction due to prevalence of wildlife poaching across the continent. The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) tells us this week about their work to help stop wildlife poaching in Africa and secure the future of these endangered African species and more. 

A majestic African lion
A majestic African lion

Since 1975, the African lion population has decreased by an estimated 80 to 90%, and numbers continue to fall.  A recent report estimated current numbers are as low as 32,000 across the whole of the continent.  That may not sound too alarming until put into context.  Only 40 years ago, Africa was home to 200,000 lions. If this rate of decline is allowed to continue we will be facing an Africa without any wild lions in the next 40 years. The situation is equally worrying for dwindling African elephant populations, with an estimated 20,000 of the species poached in 2013. But perhaps the most shocking statistic belongs to the African rhino. Last year, the South African Environmental Affairs Ministry reported that 1,004 rhinos were illegally killed in that country alone, compared with 668 the previous year; almost double the number in just 12 months.

Three different species, all facing the same major threat to their survival. And they are not alone. Wildlife poaching is brutal and is on the increase across the whole of the African continent.

The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) has recently announced a new initiative to extend its existing work in this vital area of conservation. The charity’s Wildlife Protection Unit has entered into a partnership with Rory Young, a professional tracker with 25 years’ experience of tackling poaching, and Chengeta Wildlife, a NGO which supports and funds the training of wildlife protection teams. Together, they will offer training to Africa’s Anti-poaching Units (APUs) in what has been heralded ‘the most comprehensive, intelligent and pragmatic doctrine ever devised to bring the practice of poaching under control’.

Rory with APU Scouts

With influential figures such as the Duke of Cambridge and high-profile celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio and David Beckham highlighting the scale of the poaching crisis to a global audience, the time is right to collectively stop these criminals in their tracks. Rory Young advocates taking a fresh line of attack. To that end, he has developed ‘A Field Manual for Anti-Poaching Activities’, in conjunction with security professionals with experience in investigations, special operations, law enforcement, and S.W.A.T. training.

Right now, organisations often latch onto expensive technology or some ‘super-warrior’ as the magic formula to tackling the issues of wildlife protection,’ he says. ‘Generally, the feeling is that soldiers are the people for the job, and the troops are being sent in more and more.  There are also many programs where serving and former foreign military men train rangers and scouts in weapons handling and battle tactics.’ 

Rory is confident that this is not the answer. He likens catching poachers to a game of ‘cat and mouse’, which needs the right ‘cats’! His technique involves getting into the head of a poacher; understanding his modus operandi to allow the scouts to anticipate his movements. ‘Most of these troops who go in and cannot find the ‘enemy’ are conventionally trained. They patrol round and around without ever even seeing a poacher. Poachers, although often skilled fighters, are not conducting a military campaign – and they are past masters at not being found.’

Rory’s tracking skills have been developed over many years to create an innovative method which incorporates scientific aspects of anthropology, forensic science, and even podiatry, to teach scouts how to be as effective using visual clues as a bloodhound is at following scent trails with its nose. He also teaches apprehension techniques that will ensure the safe and effective capture of poachers.

Rhino21 APU scouts from five different organisations in the Gache Gache area of Zimbabwe are currently in training with Rory. With numerous other African countries expressing an interest, this initiative could potentially offer a significant boost to the continent’s success in reducing poaching. With APUs operating within severe financial restrictions, it is important that the training is given free of charge. ALERT is working to raise funds to enable the long-term success of this program. To show your support for wildlife, please make a donation and email us at to ensure your gift goes directly to this project.

Africa needs lions. Without lions Africa will be a continent that has lost its soul. We cannot be the generation that allows this to happen. Join our Pride and show your support for the King of Beasts. On The Go Tours is proud to support ALERT and their efforts to save the lion from extinction. 

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