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British counter-terror and intelligence personnel to help with covert and other
ant-poaching operations

Yet more failed,
militarised methods being advocated by what in other eras would have been
called mercenaries and paid for by British and other governments. This approach
alienates local communities and replicates the disastrous methods of the failed
and discredited Operation Lock using ex-SAS personnel to infiltrate southern
African rhino poaching syndicates.KS

Daily Telegraph

12 January 2019

Dominic Nicholl


The African Ranger’s
phone rings in the middle of the night. Her covert contact deep within the
organised crime network of elephant poachers tells her 200 kg of ivory is about
to be loaded into a container at the docks bound for the Middle East.

Should she act now to
seize the ivory and arrest some of the middle-level criminals or track the
container to its destination and use her trusted international law enforcement
contacts to map the wider criminal network? Such are the decisions being taken
every day in Africa’s fight against the illegal wildlife trade. Across the
continent, former British military specialist intelligence soldiers are using
skills honed in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan to help tackle the
poachers and traffickers.

Retarius, a company
using experience gained in counter-terrorist operations, delivers specialist
training and mentoring to law enforcement and anti-poaching units in Cameroon,
Benin and Zambia. Employing former members of the UK intelligence community,
the company seeks to help Rangers build up a picture of the poaching networks
using informants and technical means.

“Our experience from
tackling terrorist networks for the British army means we’re now able to help
the anti-poaching effort,”says Stu Farrag, Director of Retarius.

“Of course, local
Rangers know their communities and the environment better than us. But we’re
able to train them in discrete methods and specialist skills to make best use
of their knowledge. ?The long-term success will be theirs; our background in
the military just helps give them the tools.”

Regular British troops
elsewhere in Africa are on the front-line of the illegal wildlife trade. The
British government announced an additional ?1 million in aid for Malawi earlier
this year, to help combat poaching, and British soldiers in the country have
trained 120 park rangers in the Nkhotakota and Majete Wildlife Reserves. Part
of the extra funding went to the Wildlife Crimes Investigations and Intelligence
Unit in Malawi, an initiative that has improved intelligence gathering
markedly. Last year 1000 kgs of ivory were seized and 114 arrests made, a
ten-fold increase in detentions compared to 2015.

The illegal wildlife
trade is rated as the fourth most lucrative transnational organised crime in
the world, behind people, drug and weapon smuggling. The troops long-term goal
will ensure the rangers are better able to respond appropriately to the threat
of poaching, that has driven the decline in many African animals including
elephants, rhinos and lions. The UK government has pledged £26 million up to
2020 to help fight the illegal wildlife trade. The Defence Secretary, Gavin
Williamson, said: “The illegal wildlife trade is one of the most serious issues
of organised crime facing the world today. We cannot sit idle while criminals hunt
some of the planet’s most magnificent wildlife and in the process kill those
who seek to protect them. “That is why the British Army delivers vital training
to park rangers across Africa to combat those responsible and help protect
these animals for generations to come.”

Comment from Captain
Luke Townsend, a Specialist in Counter-Poaching Operations The scale of the
poaching epidemic in Africa is both novel and prodigious. In the last decade
poachers have slashed populations of elephant and rhino in breathtakingly short
periods of time. Ranger work is hard, relentless work performed in difficult
conditions and often thankless.

Asking rangers wearing
flip flops, carrying field kit in shopping bags and bearing rifles they may
never have fired, to apprehend ex-military poaching gangs is a tall order.
Which is why the efforts of British troops in shouldering this burden are
massively appreciated. African leaders and park rangers have welcomed British
help to stop the poachers, from individuals, to the government and including Non-Governmental
Organisations (NGO), particularly the Prince of Wales Charitable Fund and Tusk

British involvement
dates back to 2016, when the government of Malawi courageously agreed to
assistance and the British Army joined forces with African Parks, a South
African based NGO that manages protected areas. Funded by the Department of
Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), we sent British troops, specially
trained in tracking and bush craft, into three Malawian parks to support and
train rangers. The soldiers work together with the rangers every day for three

It?s been a long road,
not without bumps. We found that skills learned by rangers on short courses
were quickly forgotten, but partnering over longer periods made the changes
stick. Our soldiers get at least as much out of these deployments as the
rangers do, living rough in the bush among elephant, rhino and lion, relying on
their skills on long range patrols.

The effects from these
initial partnering efforts are still being felt. But we are extremely hopeful
for the future. In one of the parks, previously heavily poached, they have been
free from the poaching of their Mega-fauna (as the large animals are known) for
over a year all thanks to the pioneering partnership between the British Army,
Malawian Government and African Parks.

DfID is now investing
millions of pounds in community development projects around these parks as
well, which will only multiply the effect. Malawi, has lead the way, and now
it’s African neighbours are engaging with the project.

Defra have funded more
work in the years ahead and with ongoing support from the royal family we look
forward to doing our best to make a difference. It is through working together
with the rangers that we strive to guarantee that our grandchildren will know a
planet with elephant and rhino in the wild, not just in a museum.

*Captain Luke Townsend
has served in both the Australian and British Armies, was awarded the Nato
meritorious service medal for his last tour in Afghanistan and has spent the
last five years involved with Counter

Poaching operations.*

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