Posted on 2020-10-01 12:34:42
World Elephant Day is on 12 August each year, and I have just read an article on a unique all-women, anti-poaching team in Zimbabwe by Rachael Bale, Animals Executive Editor for National Geographic. These women form the Akashinga team and risk their lives to save wild animals from poachers.
The women were trained by the founder of the team, Australian Damien Mander, who has been training anti-poaching rangers in Africa for over ten years. The Akashinga (the “brave ones” in Shona) have themselves survived abuse in their own lives. Now, Sergeant Vimbai Kumire and her all-women team encounter daunting danger to protect wild animals in a large wildlife area in the Zambezi Valley. They are an arm of the non-profit International Anti-poaching Foundation which manages Zimbabwe’s Phundundu Wildlife Area. In forming this remarkable team, Mander looked for women who had suffered abuse and various other traumas like being AIDS orphans or victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault. What he asked himself was: Who better to protect vulnerable animals than women who have themselves suffered tragedy or abuse?
The brave team has formed exceptionally strong bonds. To avoid any form of animal cruelty, all team members eat a nutritional vegan plant-based diet. Mander says the women are totally devoted to protecting the animals because they come from the area and have a vested interest.
Extreme danger is a constant factor in their lives. Twenty-nine communities stretch along the border of the wildlife area, so there is inevitable contact between people and wild animals.
He has found that women often seem particularly suited to ranger work and tend to be good at soothing violent situations and be less susceptible to bribery. This was why he turned to the villages surrounding Phundundu when looking for ideal team members for Akashinga.
The conservation principle the Akashinga hold in their hearts is: “Wildlife is worth more to the community alive than dead at the hands of poachers.”
To celebrate World Elephant Day this year, National Geographic decided to focus on Zimbabwe’s beleaguered elephants and on the exceptional devotion and bravery of the Akashinga team which will be presented in a documentary, Akashinga: The Brave Ones, produced by James Cameron and streaming at akashinga.film.