Garamba is situated in one of the most hostile areas in Africa. This is largely due to a challenging combination of highly armed poachers and various terrorist and guerrilla groups, all of whom view the wildlife in Garamba as a way of financially supporting their initiatives, through the ivory and bushmeat trade. The park also shares 200 km of its border with war-torn South Sudan. Our efforts are numerous, and their impacts transformational. Our rangers are regularly the only stabilising force in the region and the only lifeline for both wildlife and people. They not only risk their lives protecting elephants but are often the first and only responders to rescue or evacuate people affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and other militarised forces. Through our efforts, neighbouring communities are finally experiencing improved livelihoods and opportunity as peace and civility slowly return to this corner of the world again.
Garamba’s park rangers counter five different forces on a near daily basis:
Park rangers are mainly from the surrounding area and have undergone rigorous training by various experts. African Parks has in-house training facilitators to standardise law enforcement training programmes within the organisation, which has vastly enhanced rangers’ skillsets. Almost 70% of Garamba’s ranger force has undergone advanced tactical and investigative training, which includes improved handling of incidents, evidence collection, case handling, and the legal aspects of law enforcement. In addition, a paramedic was fully employed in 2017 and 14 of the rangers were provided with medic training, allowing management to deploy an emergency response team to incidents.
Significant numbers of rangers were recruited to step up anti-poaching efforts, and have undergone in-depth training on various law enforcement skills such as firearm handling, patrol methods, first aid, ambush and counter-ambush tactics, small unit tactics and day-night patrols. In 2017, the ranger team grew by 23%, patrol man-days doubled, and the aerial surveillance was constant compared to 2016.
Some of the best of Garamba’s rangers were selected to form a rapid reaction force. The rapid reaction force, based at the park headquarters, is on standby 24/7 and acts as a helicopter-borne force to be called out on short notice to support ranger teams deployed in the field. In addition, a fruitful collaboration with National Geographic and ESRI has rapidly enhanced the development of GIS to help combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade. Another unique relationship with the US Coast Guard Academy has enhanced the development of Remote Sensing for detecting changes in the Garamba landscape all of which greatly enhances the park’s law enforcement efforts. Their efforts have resulted in a dramatic decline in illegal activity; elephant poaching was down by 50% in 2017 compared to prior years.
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