Full metal jacket: preventing poachers
How do we prevent poachers from reaching the animals at risk? In Zambia; in the South Luangwa national park, they’ve found that one very effective way to protect this game, which is frequently targeted by poachers, is to make it the law that a wildlife protection officer accompanies all of the safari groups and walkers. This means that there’s a very visible - armed - police deterrent wherever the game goes. Chris Smith spoke to Andrew Sakala about his role protecting animals...
Andrew - We are divided into two categories. Right now, some are out in the field conducting anti-poaching patrols to stop poachers from hunting our game. Then some of us work conducting escort duties doing the protection on the guests during the walking safaris.
Chris - Yes, because you’re out with us every day and you’re the bloke with the seriously big gun.
Andrew - Yes. We use AK47s.
Chris - So what’s that loaded with? Can you show me?
Andrew - Yeah, I can. It’s loaded with a mixture of rounds: hard ones and full metal targets.
Chris - Part of your job is to escort people like me around?
Andrew - Yes.
Chris - And you said the other part of your job is doing the anti-poaching side of things. So what does that involve then?
Andrew - It involves anti-poaching patrols. When we are set to go and do anti-poaching patrols in the field we carry everything. We will be out in the field for ten days.
Chris - Presumably the poachers are not nice people?
Andrew - They are not, literally because they don’t know the importance of wild game because all they do is they mean to destroy. When you are confronting a poacher he is pretty sure that if he is apprehended and brought to justice he’s going to be in jail for too long, so trying to rescue from that one he going to do anything but not with the rifle because normally, nowadays, they are using muzzle loading guns which, when he fires once for him to load it it takes some time - a good 20-30 minutes. He knows, with someone handling an AK47 he is vulnerable.
Chris - So really, it’s your physical presence, your very visible presence in the park and that’s a strong deterrent to them? You don’t actually have to fire on them very often?
Andrew - No. When we see the poachers we stalk them. If we start to fight with them they start running away and we try and fire to scare them so that they stop and then we apprehend them and take them before justice.