The (female) Brave Ones who fight for the elephants
Wednesday, 12 August 2020 is World Elephant Day, established in 2011 and observed by 65 world wildlife conservation organizations to raise awareness of threatened elephants, the largest creatures that walk this planet. Despite bans on ivory trade in most countries, a persistent lucrative black-market demand for it goads poachers to kill 20,000 African elephants each year. An elephant dies under poachers’ guns—often in great agony—every 21 minutes on average, a much faster rate than they can possibly sustain with their long-gestation single-baby births. Herds have declined 70 percent over the past 40 years. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature projects that without aggressive action they could go extinct by 2040. There are several organizations fighting for the noble beasts in their dwindling habitat, but the cumulative effort is sadly still not enough to stop the decline.
There are two African cadres that are especially interesting—and successful. And they’re exclusively female. The Akashinga (“The Brave Ones” in Shona) are often from impoverished backgrounds, some orphaned by AIDS or violence. They undergo rigorous special-forces-type training and are charged with protecting an area where thousands of elephants have been killed over the past 20 years in the Zambezi River Valley of Zimbabwe. Founder of the nonprofit organization, Damien Mander, an anti-poaching trainer, says women are protective by nature and are far less likely to take bribes than male rangers. The Akashinga are fiercely proud, well-armed, and unafraid to fight it out with poachers. They’re fast gaining wide respect.
The other group is the Black Mambas, three dozen unarmed women who patrol South Africa’s Limpopo Province in their neat camouflage uniforms by foot and Jeep, reporting poaching activity to trained special forces rangers who then deal with it. They’ve been credited with cutting poaching in the areas they patrol by 76 percent.
The world is of course preoccupied with the continuing virus threat, but let’s not forget we share this planet with a wonderful variety of wildlife that needs our concern and protection to survive. You can help with a donation to any of the legitimate organizations or by simply spreading the word among friends. (By sharing this message, for example.)
I researched and wrote the novel Killing Ground to help raise awareness of vicious ongoing African ivory poaching. Proceeds go to elephant protection. Check it out on Amazon in print or Kindle, or you can order easily through my website.
Please mask up and keep at least six feet from others in public. These simple measures can save thousands of American lives over the coming months if enough of us can just be persuaded to do it.