The International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) is a non-profit organization that helps produce the most effective anti-poaching operations in the world by utilizing state of the art training, equipment, and management to protect highly targeted wildlife species.
IAPF has long been at the forefront of preventing illegal wildlife trafficking and just recently, they launched a new project called “Akashinga” (meaning “the brave ones”). The new project empowers previously disadvantaged African women by employing them to protect wilderness areas, instead of relying on trophy hunting as a means of income.
As IAPF notes, the hunting industry may be declining, but because of the decline, communities are left without sufficient income to help with conservation efforts. To combat this problem, Akashinga educates and trains local women to be rangers and managers.
The women come from disadvantaged backgrounds, for instance, unemployed single mothers, victims of sexual and physical abuse, wives of poachers in prison, widows, and orphans.
The first Akashinga project is now underway in Zimbabwe and the all-female team is trained to manage an entire nature reserve. The pilot project ended with 16 women and now Akashinga is in its second stage with a total of 35 women in the program. Amazing!
The women who complete the training and graduate to the program receive the exact same training as a male ranger. They learn skills such as leadership, unarmed combat, first aid, conservation ethics, and crime scene preservation. IAPF has also found that women tend to be better at de-escalating a situation.
Now only does Akashinga help empower women, over 70 percent of the operational costs of the project, through employment and goods and services goes directly back into the local community.
“We saw that an alternative and highly innovative approach was needed, a response that worked with rather than against the local population for the long-term benefit of both their own communities and nature,” Damien Mander, founder of IAPF said in a press release. “Using an all-female team to manage an entire nature reserve is a bold and ambitious response and we have been astounded by the transformation and potential we have seen in this pilot project.”
Empowering woman while tackling wildlife crime is crucial considering African elephants are being hunted to extinction, along with rhinos, for their tusks and horns. Big cats are creeping closer to extinction from the wild while they are mercilessly hunted to become stuffed trophies or rugs. While ivory bans and endangered species protections are popping up in more and more countries every day, the fact remains that poaching and big game hunting contribute to extinction and if we don’t take action now, we stand to lose some of the most iconic animals from the planet. In fact, we could lose the African elephant entirely by 2030. That’s less than two decades away.
With the success of Akashinga, IAPF is hoping to bring the program to other wilderness areas in partnership with local communities. For more information on the incredible work IAPF does to help wildlife and how you can get involved, visit their website. And be sure to share this awesome new project with all of the animal lovers you know!
Image Source: International Anti-Poaching Foundation/Facebook