Over the past three years, over 100,000 African elephants have been killed by poachers, the Northern White Rhinoceros has been poached to extinction and the Black rhinoceros is teetering on the edge with population levels declining by 97.6%.
But poachers beware – an elite team of US veterans have declared war.
Many African parks have armed anti-poaching squads and the war against poachers is real. Park rangers are often out-gunned and out-trained by well paid poachers and can pay with their life – in 2014 over 185 park rangers were murdered by poachers.
Enter VETPAW – Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife. This non-profit organization sends US military veterans over to Africa to help train anti-poaching rangers and support their communities. After completing a 4 year duty of duty in Afghanistan Kinessa Johnson has just arrived in East Africa to work with park rangers. “We work side by side with park rangers and it’s truly a learning experience for not only park rangers but also our team.” Kinessa stated.
“Our intention is not to harm anyone; we’re here to train park rangers so they can track and detain poachers and ultimately prevent poaching.”
The founder of VETPAW retired Marine Ryan Tate set up the group to help veterans find purpose after active duty. “There is no one better suited to instruct and train park rangers than post-9/11 veterans.” VETPAW’s website states. By forming VETPAW Tate hopes to help solve two issues – the high rate of underemployment for returning veterans and the need for better training and equipment for anti-poaching teams in Africa.
Poaching is actively destroying natural ecosystems and is contributing to the instability of the planet as a whole, short and long-term. Animal killing should be done rationally in the 21st century, and poachers’ greedy purposes don’t have a place in a future landscape.