Tuesday, May 27, 2014

U.S Marines Train Chadian Park Rangers in the Battle Against Elephant Poachers

A Chadian park ranger undergoing training in Zakouma National Park.

It has recently been reported that a team of U.S Marines from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina have been assigned to train park rangers in Chad's Zakouma National Park in the battle against elephant poaching. The team of fifteen marines led by Lieutenant John Porter taught 101 newly enlisted park rangers crucial tactics to help combat poachers and wildlife traffickers. These tactics included weapons handling and safety, raid strategies, field medicine, and patrolling and exploration techniques that could be used to foil smuggling, improvise border security, and guarantee the rangers' safety. According to Staff Sergeant Phillip McCallum, who served as an instructor for four years, the training sessions the rangers underwent were similar to what the Marines go through in the School of Infantry. The need for this outside expertise dates back to the poaching epidemic that massacred Zakouma National Park's elephants between 2006 and 2009 in the midst of the Chadian Civil War. The national park's elephant population plummeted from 4,300 in 2002 to fewer than 500 today. Since the end of the civil war in 2010, Chad became more stable and Zakouma's elephant population began to recover. More than twenty calves were reported earlier this year, highlighting a major victory for the park that only had four five calves born in the previous four years. However, despite the war being over, the threat of poaching still continues and not only are the elephants in danger but also park rangers. In 2012, six rangers charged with protecting the elephants were killed by poachers and such violent clashes continue.
A herd of elephants by a waterhole.

It is absolutely amazing to see that armed forces are beginning to recognize the ongoing problem of poaching and the illegal trafficking of wildlife, and are providing their help to local authorities in the battle against these threats affecting the world's wildlife. This was seen in the case of U.S Marines training park rangers in Chad to battle elephant poachers. The purpose of carrying out this movement was in response to casualties the park rangers suffered from poachers employing tactics similar to that of soldiers against their adversaries. However, it was not the first time Chad's rangers have benefited from outside help. Last year, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) provided similar training to rangers in Sena Oura National Park facing more threats from cross-border traffic with Cameroon. According IFAW's director for France and Francophone Africa Celine Sissler-Bienvenu, the fact that Chad's park rangers are receiving military-style training would not only protect elephants but also increase security in the country. I think it would be very beneficial that international armed forces could lend a helping hand to park rangers and other authorities in Africa and elsewhere in the world, who are unable to take a stand against poachers and wildlife traffickers. At the same time, public outreach programs should be implemented in countries heavily affected by poaching and illegal wildlife trade. A recent example is seen in the introduction of anti-poaching lessons in schools bordering the Masai Mara and Serengeti National Parks. With the combination of outreach programs targeted at civilians and training of local authorities by international armed forces, Chad and other countries heavily affected by poaching and wildlife trafficking would be able to take a stand against these threats

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