Defending High Target Species

International qualification & curriculum development

Project goal:

To develop and share immediate and long-term education solutions for the worlds game rangers to effectively protect high target species and their surrounding ecosystems.

Project status:

This project concept was delivered to the industry by IAPF in February 2013.

In late 2013, two new qualifications were scoped under the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations in South Africa, a sub framework of the South African Qualifications Authority and scheduled for recognition throughout the Southern African Development Community. These qualifications were ‘Anti-Poaching Ranger’ and ‘Anti-Poaching Manager’.

The next step is the Profiling meeting in mid 2014 to discuss the proposed Organisational Framework of Occupation (OFO) codes, tasks and descriptors for the qualifications. Following this, industry can commence curriculum development.

IAPF would like to acknowledge valuable input and attendance for the process in South Africa thus far:
  • Quality Council for Trades & Occupations (QCTO)
  • SANParks
  • Department of Environmental Affairs
  • Kruger National Park
  • South African Police Service (SAPS)
  • Eco Ranger Conservation Services
  • Southern African Wildlife College
  • The Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs
  • African Field Ranger Training Services
  • Ntomeni Rangers
  • Endangered Wildlife Trust
  • KZN Wildlife
  • Dung Beetle Bush School
  • Reserve Protection Agency

Across the world, high target species such as rhinoceros, elephant, gorilla and tigers are illegally hunted towards extinction by increasingly sophisticated and determined poachers. These high target species are the most challenging to protect as poachers go to the most extreme lengths to kill them. Conservation industry efforts to collaborate on this are fragmented, with many different approaches being taken. What does not exist is a specialised international qualification and career path for game rangers, which delivers the required military-like skill-sets to defend high target species.
Illegal wildlife trade is increasingly being linked to the financing of terror networks. Additionally, the relationship with human trafficking is ever-present. The decimation of forests and reserves is directly attributable to climate change. These reserves cannot function without the wildlife that inhabits them.
There is an ageing population of employees in the conservation industry that have genuine military experience and subsequent skills. In many cases nowadays, game farmers, scientists and conservationists are finding themselves in career positions where they are running anti-poaching operations. Anti-poaching is in reality often a para-military operation. As poacher’s tactics evolve the threat must be met. This can be achieved, largely through education.

An education soultion:

In January 2013, the qualification and career path of Anti-Poaching Ranger was proposed to the industry. Initial consultation into the requirements of such a qualification was carried out in early 2013. Requests to participate have been received from 58 industry leaders representing 23 countries. The initiative is bringing together key thinkers on anti-poaching, law enforcement, communities, intelligence, education and technology to develop the qualification and curriculum. This is taking place online and at workshops in South Africa.

South Africa was chosen as the most practical place to develop the qualification for local, then international use. Four workshops have already taken place in South Africa to develop this qualification with the next scheduled for June 2014 in a joint workshop hosted by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) and Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality, Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA).

The subsequent curriculum and learning tools will be developed after the qualification has completed the profiling process. It will then be shared in a controlled manner in order to benefit the worlds protected areas and their high target species – in principle, all species. The content of various courses will be developed in order to meet the requirements of different landscapes across the world. Managers will be able to craft their own courses from the material available to suit those requirements.

Successful anti-poaching requires a unique and different skill-set to area management, guiding, security, wildlife studies, tourism and hospitality. The Anti-Poaching Ranger qualification will compliment existing studies, but provide the niche capabilities to deploy, operate and command on today’s wildlife battlefield.

A specialised material development team is proposed in order to coordinate industry leaders in the development of learning materials and standards to be used by the industry as required. Through a MoU this material would be co-owned by the stakeholders who have made a positive contribution to the development of the qualification, framework and material.

The establishment of a steering committee will designate what the minimum standards are for organisations to utilise this material. If stakeholders do not initially meet these requirements then they will be guided along the process to meet the standards. This committee will also be responsible for maintaining security measures of the intellectual property, which is being mapped out during development.

There are excellent instructors in the industry with exemplarily training materials, developed over many decades. This process aims to utilise these leader’s experience and guide the industry in best practices on a common platform, as a united front to combat what is a global challenge. Inputting this knowledge into more modern system for learning is a process that needs to take place.


The proposed framework to fit within the qualifications is:
  • Anti-Poaching Ranger: Level 1 (Armed & unarmed)
  • Anti-Poaching Ranger: Level 2
  • Anti-Poaching Team Leader
  • Anti-Poaching Risk Management & Intelligence Officer
  • Anti-Poaching Instructor
  • Or, depending on career path: Anti Poaching Manager

Each level is proposed to go for 3-7 weeks and can be shortened when incorporating workplace and online training. It is designed to compliment existing training/ qualifications in conservation but with a more focused approach to the skills required to make anti-poaching operations more effective. The suite of courses and lessons will allow instructors and managers to select the most relevant framework for their regions.

Immediate requirement:

One of the biggest gaps in the current industry is the military like skill-sets for conservation managers to command and control anti-poaching operations. Managers cannot leave the workplace for any great periods of time. This further compounds the problem.

The IAPF, with a small group of industry leaders, has designed an online college so managers can immediately access the required theory lessons, in their own workplace, at their own pace. When they do subsequently attend courses, they will all be on a similar level of practical education. Access to an online community of learners will also aid learning. This immediate part of the project will compliment the wider vision. It will also be able to assist the entire industry immediately.

Draft Organising Framework for Occupations (OFO) descriptors and tasks:
Anti-Poaching Ranger: OFO


Practice, exercise and employ infantry tactics, techniques and procedures in the protection of high target wildlife species as part of a conservation area management plan


  • Carry out daily intensive foot, vehicular or boat patrols, applying, administering and correctly enforcing regulations within the designated area of operation
  • Participate in basic reconnaissance operations to investigate illegal or suspicious activities
  • Correctly preserve, evaluate and collect information and data relevant to crime scenes, human & wildlife movement, infrastructure or topography
  • Correctly operate firearms, equipment and technology as prescribed in the function of anti-poaching
  • Demonstrate survival, dangerous wildlife knowledge, first aid and tracking skills
Anti-Poaching manager: OFO


Train, plan, organise, coordinate, deploy, command and control anti-poaching operations as part of a conservation area management plan designed to protect high target species from illegal activities


  • Ensure sufficient battle handling levels are maintained and lead combat operations in the field
  • Assess and manage an organization’s compliance with local laws and regulations in the relation to law enforcement
  • Manage a risk assessment process and implementation of counter-measures
  • Collect information for the purpose of contributing to and overseeing the intelligence process
  • Arrange for or conduct and assess training and development to ensure staff acquire and develop the skills and competencies required
  • Guide the relative authorities to verify that the proper legal charges have been made against law offenders
  • Correctly respond to emergencies and coordinate with local and regional authorities in planning and response
  • Monitor, record and evaluate activities to assess program effectiveness
  • Record facts to prepare reports that document incidents and activities
What are the requirements for this initiative?
  • Poaching of many high target species is at an all time high
  • The rhino & elephant poaching situation is an international crisis attracting vast negative attention
  • Managers often don’t have the required field experience or training to manage military-like operations
  • In many areas, the focus for a long time has been the quantity of rangers, not the quality
  • A rangers job is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous
  • A rangers role is increasingly being performed by external agencies (security & military), undermining the industry
  • There is often little opportunity for an accredited career path or progression
  • Existing national qualifications may not fall under the most suitable education sector
  • Current learning and assessment tools are administration heavy
  • The military-like standards of rangers are being lost – A new breed of rangers is needed
  • Poachers have evolved and are becoming increasingly professionalised
  • Training programs need to be modernised to integrate technology that is now available
  • Employees are not always able to fulfil their roles: Often a lack of training or willingness to provide training exists
  • Lack of structured quality control after training and deployment
  • There are too many resources going into training, not enough coming out
  • The conservation industry is often fragmented on anti-poaching and lacking collaboration – No common platform for us to all work together exists
  • Existing current qualifications are not adequate to address the operational requirements on the front-lines today
  • Most rangers trained are not eligible for a relevant national certificate at the end of training
  • Many training courses being conducted are ‘off the cuff’
  • Most rangers do not have competency log schedules integrated into their workplace
  • Those who belong in the field are often trapped at a desk, producing and managing the materials that this qualification will develop
  • There is no specific qualifications that exist for anti-poaching


What are the intended benefits of this project?
  • Promotes collaboration through a common platform
  • Creates and monitors a superior standard, both in Africa and globally
  • Aims to drastically reduce administration through carefully planned and structured systems and support networks
  • Creates a system which allows Anti-Poaching Rangers toremobilized to high threat areas
  • Allows Anti-Poaching Rangers to be rotated around a region,internal threat
  • Facilitates joint operations (particularly important within Trans-areas and public/ private boundaries)
  • Supports the implementation ofstandardized grading system for protected areas (based on risk assessment) that enables the threat to be accurately met with a required formula
  • International exchange of rangers
  • Creates a clearpath for progression
  • The potential for career progression greatlymorale and performance
  • Creates a relevant, recognized qualification for those who have long deserved it
  • Cancreation of a clear pay structure & benefit plan for Anti-Poaching Rangers
  • Can facilitate a clear setlabor laws to be defined and implemented in each region
  • Viewed as an international approach to the issue, not just from one park to the next
  • Supports ongoing outcomes based training in between qualification levels
  • Allows administration issues to be dealt with collaboratively
  • Is a top down approach, not just bottom up – a strong focus on up-skilling managers and instructors
Intended tools developed with this project would include:

Education materials (with an emphasis also on low literacy learning)

  • Online and tablet based college for all theoretical material
  • Online low literacy learning tools
  • Selection processes
  • Text books
  • Assessor guide
  • Student guide
  • Facilitator guide
  • Wall charts
  • Class handouts
  • Field/pocket manuals
  • Written tests
  • Audio guides
  • Visual guides
  • Virtual testing
  • Operations
  • Unit SOP’s templates (Standard operating procedures)
  • Unit standing orders (Guidelines that must be followed)
  • Defence plan templates
  • Crisis management templates
  • Technical data collection and analysis guidelines
  • Risk assessment templates
  • Patrol report templates
  • Incident logs
  • Smart phone applications for: incidents, reporting and monitoring
  • Administration
  • Personal files
  • Competency logs
  • Pay guidelines
  • Labour guidelines
  • Ranger appraisal forms
  • Budget templates
  • Equipment registry
Timeline for completion:

Phase 1: November 2014

Phase 2: Ocotber 2015

“All of us in the field of wildlife conservation, to which we have dedicated our lives, will naturally disagree on many aspects. Game rangers are by nature individuals and have their own strong opinions. Wildlife conservation is constantly changing and the threats grow worse every year. I do believe that the one thing we all have in common is the need to improve the training standards of the game rangers who are on the front line in the fight for wildlife conservation. 

Here is a model which I believe deserves serious consideration by all of us because it will enable us to move forward on a common platform.  It is important that we all combine to develop new standards embracing new technology.  The devastating scourge of rhino and elephant poaching in Africa has highlighted how desperate the situation is becoming. We all have to be ad idem in this monumental fight.”

Dr Ian Payer – World renowned conservationist

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