A day in the life of a Kafue ranger, Neddy Mulimo
Neddy Mulimo is the backbone of Game Rangers International’s (GRI) Resource Protection Programme. He has had a long and distinguished career protecting Zambia’s wildlife in the fight against poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. He is currently the Senior Support Manager for the Resource Protection Programme having been a frontline ranger for 28 years.
Neddy started his career in 1985 when he joined the Department of National Parks and Wildlife. Even during his training, he was never far from danger. He recalls one specific incident when, as he was approaching a wounded buffalo, which had been snared by poachers, he was almost mauled to death by the suffering animal. Had it not been for the swift thinking by both him and his instructor, which enabled them both to escape, this incident could have quickly turned fatal.
A one year, wildlife management course was Neddy’s first exposure to the world of conservation and anti-poaching. After that, his intelligence and determination as a young ranger enabled him to pass a gruelling nine-month paramilitary course in Sondela, furthering his skills and knowledge.
He used this new knowledge, as well as his significant experience of anti-poaching operations, to introduce new tactics and techniques into the Resource Protection Programme. Whilst working in Zambia’s Blue Lagoon National Park, he introduced a new method of tracking poachers, who had become especially elusive in this park. Neddy also headed up night patrols, using trenches to ambush poachers. Night patrols are extremely dangerous due to the threat of poachers and nocturnal wildlife. All of these new approaches led to the increased capture of poachers before eventually resulting in a reduction of all illegal activity across the park. It is this level of innovation and motivation, coupled with a true love for the wildlife, , which made Neddy, and indeed all rangers, so effective in their vital roles.
On another occasion, Neddy was supervising the construction of mud houses in the Lukanga swamps, illustrating the wide variety of tasks rangers are more than capable of. He was collecting elephant grass for the rooves and came into contact with seven poachers, all carrying firearms. Neddy, dressed in civilian clothing, quickly managed to disguise himself as a poacher and joined their group. With little regard for his own life, he managed to send word back to his team, informing them of his location and company. His team acted without hesitation, laying an ambush, waiting for the poachers. The ambush was sprung, leading to the arrest of five of the seven poachers, as well as confiscation of the firearms. Neddy was presented with an award for quick thinking and courage for his actions on that day.
These acts of courage in the face of danger are, sadly, all too necessary and regular.
Neddy is currently based at Musa Gate, on the edge of Kafue National Park, where he now supports the work of the rangers on the ground. During a recent operation conducted by the Marine Anti-Poaching Unit, the rangers were moving in a patrol boat towards a suspected poachers’ camp. The poachers, on seeing the Rangers approach, panicked and engaged the patrol with their rifles. The intensity and accuracy of the fire was such that the rangers were forced to jump into the water to avoid being shot. After regrouping on the shores of the lake, the Marine Unit then attacked the poachers’ camp, which led to the seizure of two large elephant tusks, as well as its meat, and a boat which would have been used to transport the ivory out of the park.
These rangers, some of whom are from the communities near where they operate, mostly join the fight against poaching because they want to conserve nature. They also see themselves as bastions of the wildlife, understanding that their job does not stop when they put down their weapons. They understand the importance of educating their families and friends about the benefit of protecting wildlife and wild spaces.
They chose a job which can put them at odds with their communities and even families.
They chose a job which is under appreciated, sometimes poorly paid, often deadly, and always hard.
They chose a job which benefits everyone on our planet, whether they know it or not. These men and women did not have to become rangers. They chose to.
Written by: James Amoore from Game Rangers International.