The Eastern Cape holds important rhino populations. Fortunately, poaching impacts within the province is low, because its well-equipped, well-trained, well-led and well-supported counter-poaching teams serve as an active deterrent to poachers.
To enhance their capabilities, counter-poaching unit rangers from three local reserves – Shamwari, Amakhala and Lalibella – along with their senior team leaders, dog handlers and the counter-poaching dogs, took part in counter-poaching refresher training sessions between the 6 and 21 June.
The 30 attendees individually, as well as each reserve team, were mentored to increase confidence in their own capabilities and to be able to think and problem solve for themselves and as a team. Mentoring took place in the field and efforts were focussed on high-risk areas, thereby also adding protection benefits to the reserve.
Mentoring sessions also focussed on legal and tactical aspects of successful counter-poaching, as well as leadership and the integration of teams together with dog units, for effective and successful incident management.
Photo Credit: Peter Chadwick
The training was conducted by Peter Chadwick, a terrestrial and marine protected area expert, specialising in protected area risk and security assessments; counter-poaching strategy and capacitation of counter-poaching units.
Ongoing skills development of the counter-poaching units is essential to keep them highly effective and capable of dealing with any threats. Training such as this not only enhances ranger capability, it also builds team cohesiveness and co-operation, and boosts morale, which is particularly vital during these difficult Covid-19 times. In addition, it enables the alignment of capabilities of all attending personnel across the participating reserves, strengthening and supporting area-wide capabilities.
Five previous mentoring sessions were hosted in the Eastern Cape since June 2019. The Amakhala and Lalibella sessions were sponsored by the Chipembere Rhino Foundation with help from Cause Conservation and their donors in the US, while the Game Rangers Association of Africa covered the costs for the Shamwari sessions, continuing a positive working relationship between these organisations and private rhino owners within the Eastern Cape province.
As all three of the private game reserves – Shamwari, Amakhala and Lalibella – form part of both Indalo in the Eastern Cape and the Frontier Wildlife Zone as supported by National Government, this approach also feeds into the national strategy of developing Wildlife Protection Zones and, in the Eastern Cape, meets some of the objectives of what Indalo is hoping to achieve.