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Operation Footprints: Update on veterans training rangers

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Supporting rangers across Africa and Asia tfight wildlife crime and protect endangered species is at the heart of our work at David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) and has been since our inception 35 years ago Without the frontline protection that wildlife rangers provide, many species would face almost certain extinction.  

To further support and empower rangers working on the ground in some of the world’s most harsh environments, DSWF were proud to initiate and team up with Walking with the Wounded, The Royal Foundation and Game Rangers International to launch ‘Operation Footprints’ late last yearThe initiative supports former servicemen and women to train wildlife rangers at in-situ conservation locations and provides veterans with the opportunity to share the skills they acquired during active military service, gain training qualifications and provide them with hands-on work experience while upskilling the wildlife rangers they are training. Ultimately helping to protect some of the planets most vulnerable and threatened wildlife 

This week, DSWF and Operation Footprints areproud to have supported the third training intervention under this initiative and have been eagerly receiving live updates from the team in Africa.  The three former British soldiers have volunteered their time to help provide training to over 200 wildlife rangers and special elite anti-poaching units supported by DSWF and Game Rangers International.   

This initiative is designed to enhance the already excellent training provided to rangers on the ground, but also providing training on elements that that may not be provided as standard in their onward professional development.     

The current training focusses on several non-combatant essentials such as medical training, lifesaving swimming techniquesdrowning mitigation drills and operational communication skills.  

Africa is prone to dangerous flash flooding and the terrain sometimes requires the rangers to cross rivers.  Game Rangers International, DSWF’s ground based partners, felt it was vital the rangers received swimming training.  

“Every ranger I taught basic life support to, thought that water was held in the stomach in a drowning victim. They had been pressing on people’s stomachs when giving first aid. Dispelling this myth was a simple fix, providing a huge impact and ultimately saving lives.  In terms of personal experience, it has helped me switch to a more positive mental attitude being in Zambia providing vital training to the rangers on the ground and those coming through the training academy.  This will most certainly allow me to come home appreciating my own skills and abilities making my life more enjoyable and also having a positive effect on those closest to me.” Says Jordan, Army veteran and currently an Operation Footprints team member.  

Operation Footprints importantly not only provides first-class lifesaving training to the wildlife rangers but also helps bring a new perspective to the veterans participating.   

James, another member of the current team shared how personally rewarding the experience has been “Seeing how eager the rangers were to learn, and how they want to absorb every bit of information we taught, was hugely gratifying. The job they’re doing out here is critical, and so to be even a small part of enabling their role gives a true sense of doing something useful. Incredibly good for the soul.”  


The project so far has been a huge success and the response from the wildlife ranger teams in Zambia has been nothing but positive More importantly however is the long term sustainable aim  that By ‘training the trainer’, these skills will continue to be passed onto new recruits and ensure continuity of training. It’s incredible to have such a receptive audience and be able to teach rangers basic skills which can have such a large effect on their ability to do their jobs.’ says Nick, the final member of the team currently in Africa 

DSWF are hugely proud to be supporting this initiative, which not only helps veterans put their valuable military experience and training to good us but also to help empower and develop the vital skills needed for rangers in Zambia to help prevent poaching and fight wildlife crime. 

The project is also generously sponsored in part by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust.

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