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Raising Awareness of the First Line of Defence of African Wildlife

Posted on 31 October 2018
Raising awareness of the first line of defence of African Wildlife

Animal Management students at Merrist Wood College were treated to a lecture by Raabia Hawa, the founder of the Walk with Rangers initiative and the Ulinzi Africa Foundation, to raise awareness of the importance of wildlife conservation and the work rangers do in Africa.

Raabia started her career in the media, working on TV and radio in Kenya. Whilst working within the industry, she became aware of the severe poaching problem in Africa and felt compelled to get involved with the rangers tackling this important issue. She began to link her media career with her conservation work and reported on the problems the rangers encountered, often putting their lives on the line on a daily basis. “Ulinzi” meaning “Defenders of Africa” in Swahili, sums up the work the rangers do for African wildlife. Raabia wanted to raise awareness of this work and highlight that rangers are the first line of defence for wildlife in Africa, yet they are poorly paid, under-resourced and work long hours.

On her first trip with the rangers, Raabia recounts she was “fumbling around trying to pitch a tent, having never camped before” when she heard 13 gunshots and quickly joined rangers on her first poacher pursuit. Within 15 minutes, she saw her first poached elephant. Since then, legislation changes have been put in place with regards to fines - a poacher would have previously been fined £300-£500, however the fine has now risen to approximately £100,000, or a life sentence.

Tackling poaching and the illegal wildlife trade in Kenya is a huge task. The poachers use a variety of methods, from wire snares and poisoned arrows, to guns. The snares used are indiscriminate and poachers often lay 20 or so at a time, to catch any animal they can. Rangers do snare sweeps to remove the threat to animals and rescue any trapped animals they come across, but there are so many laid it is a huge task. Whilst the trade of ivory and other animal products are allowed, the poachers will continue to kill wildlife for profits. Raabia met President Obama when he visited Kenya in 2014 and they discussed getting help from the US government on both a global and local scale to address the sale of poached products.

To raise much needed funds, in 2014, Raabia organised a trek from Arushna, Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya; a distance of over 200 miles which took 15 days to complete. Before this trek, a survey was taken from Nairobi students of which 82% thought that rangers worked with the poachers, not against them. Following the initiative, that figure fell to 19%. On this expedition, Raabia was joined by more than 70 Global companions who walked with her and the rangers, across open grasslands in Africa. This has now become a situational experience and is helping to fund better equipment, first aid training and medical camps for the rangers and the group hopes to launch its own anti-poaching unit. To date, over 200 rangers have been trained in emergency first aid.

Visit our Animal Management subject area to find out more about the wide range of qualifications we offer, including our Wildlife and Conservation Foundation Degree.

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