Game Rangers International (GRI) is a Zambian conservation organization, working alongside the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) to protect the wildlife in Zambia. The organisation has been active in Kafue National Park (KNP) since 2008, originally founded to empower rangers and local communities to conserve nature.
GRI has developed over the years to encompass the following themes; Resource Protection,Wildlife Rescue and Community Outreach & Education.
GRI’s vision is for a sustainable planet where man and nature co-exists in total harmony. They are working towards this vision by embracing a holistic approach to nature conservation, which focuses on people protecting, working and living alongside wildlife and natural spaces.
DSWF support GRI in three main ways:
GRI believes that sustainable and long-term conservation can only be achieved if communities living around protected areas are fully educated, fully engaged, and fully able to experience the benefits of healthy and viable eco-systems.
Targeting health, education and income generation, GRI’s Community Outreach and Education Project works with schools, clinics, women’s groups and wider communities to address the drivers of wildlife crime and inspire better management of natural resources.
Community Outreach and Education has two main objectives:
- To educate, inspire and engage greater conservation awareness
- To develop the communities of Rangers working on the front line of conservation
The Elephant Orphanage Department offers sanctuary for defenseless abandoned elephant calves, often the tragic victims of poaching and human conflict. Under the age of two, young elephants are incredibly vulnerable and dependent. Many do not survive without intricate care and nutrient rich milk from their mothers. At the Lilayi Elephant Nursery these fragile elephants are cared for around the clock – a milk dependent orphan requires special milk formula every three hours!
A team of locally employed, highly trained Keepers care for them and watch over them constantly – whether out during their daily walks, or sitting close by their stables at night. Together with their new siblings and Keepers these young elephants learn to overcome the tragic loss of their natal family, as they browse, play and bath together in a natural environment.
As soon as the calves can be weaned from milk they will be moved to the Kafue National Park, to join other older orphaned elephants at the EOP Kafue Release Facility, where they are more independent of human support and spend most of their time browsing freely in the National Park. The Facility backs onto the ancient Ngoma Teak Forest where there is a 1,000 strong local elephant population, which maximises the opportunity for the orphans to eventually reintegrate with fellow elephants back in the wild.
This is the central pillar of the department, and aims to protect the wildlife in the park by countering illegal wildlife activity within and around the KNP. The Kafue Conservation department is supporting and empowering existing DNPW units through enhanced training and equipment to confront today’s wildlife threats. GRI is supporting DNPW’s Special Anti-Poaching Unit (SAPU), with a permanent base at Hook Bridge in the centre of the Park, as well as a number of regional Anti-Poaching Units (APU’s) in strategic areas within the park. The longer-term aim is to increase the number of APU’s for better security in the Park and its Game Management Areas (GMA’s).
The Special Anti-Poaching Unit (SAPU) is a DNPW Unit, which is supported by KCP. It comprises of three Rapid Response Teams, each comprising of six DNPW Officers. SAPU is an Intelligence Led Law Enforcement Unit, with the primary objective of eliminating poaching hotspots within the Park, as well as disrupting illegal wildlife trade routes.
SAPU’s operations extend across the entire KNP, including all the neighbouring GMA’s. In addition, SAPU is also available to act as a ‘Strike Force Team’ to DNPW’s Intelligence and Investigations Unit (IIU). SAPU can be deployed wherever and whenever the office of the DCM, DNPW deems necessary. There are always two Rapid Response Teams available to respond to intelligence and provide immediate coverage at hotspots within the Operational Area. SAPU’s day-to-day anti-poaching operations are commanded and co-ordinated by DNPW officers from the SAPU HQ with oversight by the DNPW Senior Warden for KNP.
There are currently three Anti-Poaching Units supported by GRI in KNP. Each APU is comprised of three teams of six officers, a combination of DNPW Wildlife Police Officers and Village Scouts.
Busanga APU: day-to-day anti-poaching operations are commanded and co-ordinated from the Kabanga Patrol Base, located in the north of the Park. Overall command remains with Mumbwa and Chunga Area Management Units.
Nkala APU: day-to-day anti-poaching operations are commanded and co-ordinated from the Shanangoma Patrol Base, located in the south of the Park. Overall command remains with Ngoma Area Management Unit
Marine Unit: Support Anti-Poaching activities on Lake Itezhi Tezhi.
KCP aims to establish more APU’s with increased protection across the whole KNP as a goal. In 2016, an APU will be established in Nanzhila plains in the south of the Park and a Marine Unit will support Anti-poaching activities on Lake Itezhi Tezhi.
FIRE FIGHTING UNIT
The Fire Fighting Unit (FFU) comprises of one team of five trained fire fighters and a fully equipped Fire Fighting Vehicle. The FFU provides fire management and fire fighting support, and all activities are coordinated with the Park Ecologist.
KNP covers a vast area and the foundation of the KNP Aerial Unit is a game changer for GRI. ‘Eyes in the Sky’ will provide the APU’s with rapid information on incursions and activities in remote parts of the park. The 3D view of the park will complement the on-the -ground view of the APU’s when pursuing threats. Aerial surveys will also form a vital data gathering tool for the re-established KCP Research department. GRI have sourced funding for the purchase of a Light Sport Aircraft, construction of an airstrip, hanger and fuel depot, as well as training for 2 pilots. The plane will be operational early 2016.
PARK DEVELOPMENTS AND MAINTENANCE
The Park Developments and Maintenance Departmental aims are threefold.
- To provide all infrastructure developments for GRI operations within the Park, such as the construction of the GRI-Zambian Primate Project release Pens or the KCP Field Headquarters.
- To ensure all KCP assets and vehicles are properly maintained.
- To ensure that park developments benefit the wider community. For instance a pump, pumphouse, tank stand and water tank were installed at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) Chunga Training camp.