Poaching is slowly becoming a thing of the past in parts of Zimbabwe! A highly-effective all-female anti-poaching ranger unit called the Akashinga is protecting wildlife and revolutionizing the fight against illegal trophy hunting.

Since being founded in 2017 as part of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), the Akashinga (meaning The Brave Ones in the Shona language) helped reduce elephant poaching in Zimbabwe’s Lower Zambezi Valley by a whopping 80 percent.

“The program itself is run by Damien Mander. He puts the women and the wildlife first… setting ideals for training and living, but giving the women the power to run the project,” Pulley shared. “Filming was actually pretty easy—the story is so powerful, we simply went out with the rangers each day and filmed what they do.”

The Akashinga is made up of disadvantaged women, many of whom are survivors of domestic abuse. They patrol Zimbabwe’s 115-square-mile Phundundu Wildlife Area, managed by the IAPF and protect not only elephants but other animals as well, including rhinos and lions. Currently, around 85k elephants live in Zimbabwe.

The dangers to these animals come not just from poachers directly but also from the cyanide and snare traps they leave behind which can seriously harm or kill the local fauna.

The Akashinga was founded by former Australian special forces soldier and anti-poaching figure Damien Mander who favors a ‘community buy-in’ approach instead of a full-on armed assault against poachers. In other words, he believes that once a community understands the economic benefits of preserving wildlife, poaching will be eliminated peacefully.

The IAPF plans to employ 1k female rangers by 2025 in order to protect 20 nature preserves. The Akashinga program doesn’t just benefit nature, though: it’s also a way for women to rebuild their lives, feel empowered, and become leaders of their communities.


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