You are currently viewing Zimbabwe specialist ranger units honoured in Rwanda

Zimbabwe specialist ranger units honoured in Rwanda

*Zimbabwe, Kenya and DRC among global award winners in Kigali

Kigali, Rwanda – Two of Zimbabwe’s anti-poaching units, who are leading the line in dismantling dozens of notorious poaching syndicates, were recipients of the IUCN WCPA International Ranger Award at the Africa Protected Area Congress in Rwanda on Wednesday evening.

The Anti-Poaching Tracking Specialists (ATS) team, whose tireless work in the Savé Valley Conservancy in south eastern Zimbabwe has led to the recovery of populations of black and white rhinos and other species in the Conservancy received recognition at the IUCN African Protected Areas Congress.

Zimbabwe’s Nyaradzo Auxillia Hoto of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) Akashinga Program was also honoured at the International Ranger Awards.

The member of the all-female Akashinka Ranger team since 2017, was credited for helping to pioneer inclusive and less confrontational approaches to protection that focus on positive social impacts as well as on conservation.

The awards’ panelists lauded her courage, perseverance, diligence and honesty which have helped her overcome personal and professional obstacles to become a respected and trusted ranger sergeant.

“Operating with her team in often dangerous environments, her innovative work has proved highly effective in reducing poaching, building local support and empowering local women, earning the admiration of her colleagues and the support of her community,” read the judges report.

Nyaradzo Auxillia Hoto of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) Akashinga Program was among the winners at the International Ranger Awards, presented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA),

The International Ranger Awards, presented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), were established with the support of the International Ranger Federation, Conservation Allies, Re:wild and the Global Tiger Initiative.

“The world’s rangers are the unsung heroes and heroines of conservation.” said Dr Madhu Rao, Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas.

“We rely on their perseverance and dedication to maintain a healthy planet for wildlife and for people. The work of these women and men work is skilled and diverse: they are protectors, educators, community facilitators and wildlife monitors, working in protected areas, private reserves, Indigenous territories and community conservancies. WCPA is delighted to be a partner recognising these new awards which recognise their vital work.”

Each winner or winning team received US$10,000 to support the protected and conserved areas where they work, and a custom uniform patch to signify their achievement.

In total, seven individual rangers and three ranger teams, from 10 countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Australasia were acknowledged for going beyond the call of duty to protect the earth’s wild places and wildlife, and to support local communities.

Bryce Clemence, Director and Head Ranger of ATS said the specialist unit was “incredibly honoured to receive the WCPA International Ranger Award. Thank you to the IUCN, to Wild and to the Game Rangers Association of Africa for this recognition.”

Andrew Campbell, Director of the Game Rangers Association of Africa said the ATS K9 unit is one of the most active and results oriented rhino anti-poaching organisations in Southern Africa.

ATS oversees a critical stronghold for rhino in the Savé Valley Conservancy, which harbours 25% of Zimbabwe’s black rhino population.

“The bush knowledge and tracking skills of the rangers are exemplary, it is a great asset to have Bryce Clemence as an ambassador for the GRAA,” Campbell said.

Australia based NGO, Save African Rhino Foundation, which has been working in Zimbabwe for 35 years says the ATS team has played a pivotal role in fighting wildlife crime.

The award was collected on behalf of the ATS team by Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Barbara Rwodzi, and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority Director Fulton Mangwanya, who are in Rwanda, representing the country at the Africa Protected Area Congress

ATS, Anti-poaching Tracking Specialists comprise of 11 Malinois dog APU, who track to contact poachers in the illegal wildlife trade in Zimbabwe.

Over the last 12 years, together with Zimbabwe Republic Police and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, ATS has successfully apprehended some of the country’s most notorious regional poachers and gang members.

Dismantling critical network pathways and infiltrating vital communication channels that have been devastating to the rhino and protected species population in Zimbabwe.

Operating for 10 years in the Savé Valley Conservancy, the team has been credited with over 189 years of prison sentences for rhino poachers, putting a significant wedge in the crime syndicates.

In the last four years, there have been 29 rhino poachers apprehended. So far this year, ATS has already had three court cases involving rhino poachers.

“This award to the ranger team has come despite operating in the face of adversity, with the results of a positive growth population of rhino. Under the protection of ATS, the rhino population in Savé Valley Conservancy has seen a biological growth rate of 7%, this is above the 5% IUCN recommendation for game reserves protecting rhino, and maintained a poaching mortality rate of below 2%, also IUCN recommended,” ATS said in a statement.

Mathius Mbengo and his K9 partner

Rangers face many challenges and duties – be it combatting poaching and land-grabbing, preventing human-animal conflict, fighting fires, acting as an early warning system for threats and problems, and looking after the welfare of wildlife, local communities, and visitors.

Often working for little reward and with much risk, over the past decade, more than 1000 rangers have been killed in the line of duty.

It is in this light, that the IUCN WCPA International Ranger Awards seek to recognise rangers that have gone above-and-beyond the call of duty, to protect wildlife and support local communities, be it at the individual or team level.