In Minkebe National Park (NP) most of the Gabon’s forest elephants have been slaughtered by illegal hunters for the lucrative Asian market during the last decade.
But now, the local rangers have help in the form of 12 British soldiers.
The small team of Northern Ireland-based troops are on their way, after Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba requested help in tackling the increase in ivory poaching. The U.K. soldiers will work alongside local rangers at a training center in Mokekou.
“It’s a challenging environment for the park agencies in Gabon and for ourselves as soldiers. With a range of forestation across a hilly environment, it is not a straightforward task,” Major Mark Shercliff said.
“We have junior soldiers with a range of tactical experience, we have strong and experienced instructors who work with troops deploying all over the globe. This allows us to focus on low level skills, as well as building the teams that will be needed within the park agencies,” he added.
According to the Belfast Telegraph: “The soldiers, a team of 12 drawn from the Royal Scots Borderers, the Rifles, and other specialist corps will work with rangers at a military training center at Mokekou—nine hours’ drive from the nearest town. They will share experience and training in surveillance, analysis, collection and use of criminal intelligence to prosecute gangs responsible for the slaughter.”
Major Shercliff told the Belfast Telegraph: “Military input cannot solve this alone, but it can help at the tactical level. There is a lot of work to be done above us all in the political sphere by getting countries around the world to combat poaching in a way that is joined up—this is not a phenomenon that belongs to the single country or single continent.”
Let’s hope they can make the difference the forest elephants need.