Environment & Ecology• CONSERVATION

The Brave Ones: The All-Female Anti-Poaching Unit

Transforming women’s lives while protecting wildlife.
Lindsay Haskell

What if there was a way to protect animals from poachers and women from violence in their homes at the same time? Enter Akashinga, or "the Brave Ones,” an initiative created by a former special operations sniper from Australia. His name is Damien Mander, and his group the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF). 

Starting in 2017, Mander recruited survivors of domestic abuse for Akashinga’s ranger training academy at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Today, these women can be found in camouflage gear with AR-15 rifles, defending rhinoceros and elephants in the wild against poachers. The job provides them a stable income, practical self-defense training, and a life-changing boost in self-confidence. In March 2019 France 24 reporters caught up with Nyaradzo Auxilia, a 26-year-old single mother from the anti-poaching unit. She says she’s now attending Zimbabwe’s Chinhoyi University with the funds she was able to save working as a ranger.

According to a CBS News report in January 2019, the team of three dozen women has arrested 80 armed poachers in the past year. All the field rangers eat an exclusively vegan diet and are even spreading veganism in their communities to further their environmental cause. Through the protection of natural habitats and improvements in women’s lives, entire communities have a better chance to thrive. Although the women have to spend weeks away from their families at a time, they’re setting a new example for their children and are able to focus on their futures.