Female Elite Anti-poaching Squads

Abused and disadvantaged women and daughters have become Zimbabwe’s weapon against poachers who kill elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns, according to CBS News.

The Akashinga squad, Zimbabwe’s first all-female anti-poaching unit, have earned a reputation as top sharpshooters. Akashinga means “Brave Ones” and in the past year the team has arrested more than 80 armed poachers, many of whom pose as much of a threat to human life as they do to wildlife. According to Save the Rhino at least a thousand rangers have died in the line of duty in a decade, with many more unreported casualties.

Recruited by former Australian Special Ops military sniper Damien Mander, many of the women come from backgrounds where extreme poverty and domestic violence are rife.

Former Australian Special Ops military sniper Damien Mander who trained Zimbabwe’s “Brave Ones” says women will change the face of conservation forever.

Female Elite Anti-Poaching Squads
Photo courtesy: IAPF – International Anti Poaching Foundation –

This is Africa’s poaching frontline, and these are not just regular female game rangers. If the team behind Kumire’s new job have anything to do with it, these women are a growing squad of environmental shock troops for a new type of community development offensive.

According to conservation biologist Victor Muposhi of Chinhoyi University of Technology, the lower Zambezi Valley has lost 11,000 elephants in the past 10 years. But he believes that hiring and training female rangers such as Kumire directly from the local communities is a game-changer.

“Developing conservation skills in communities creates more than just jobs,” says Professor Muposhi. “It makes local people directly benefit from the preservation of wildlife.” And that, he says, can save not only landmark species such as elephants but entire ecosystems.

Female Elite Anti-poaching Squads
Photo courtesy: IAPF – International Anti Poaching Foundation –

Women’s empowerment is at the core of the programme, named Akashinga, which means the brave ones. “This is a true empowerment programme,” says Muposhi, “because you are dealing with a highly vulnerable and damaged group of young ladies.” Sitting on a rock looking north over one of Africa’s last great wildernesses, Muposhi explains that his early research shows the five-month-old programme is helping change these formerly unemployed single mothers into community leaders.

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