Following arrests by our Akashinga wildlife rangers, three members of one of Zimbabwe’s most elusive ivory syndicates have received mandatory prison sentences! This is the direct result of an investigation by International Anti-Poaching Foundation’s all-female Akashinga anti-poaching unit, and subsequent raids in conjunction with Zimbabwe’s Minerals and Border Control Unit (MBCU).First raid
As we shared with you last week, the first raid happened on 11 June 2018, at approximately 2200 local time. Under the cover of darkness, the Akashinga unit executed a raid on a house suspected to be harbouring key members of an ivory syndicate. These wanted men were on the run and considered armed and dangerous. The two men—Mr. Anyway Fopo and Mr. Elia Tivapasi—were taken into custody without incident and found in possession of ivory at the time of their arrests. Second raid (!) Three nights later, your dedicated Akashinga team conducted a second successful raid! Once more, our team operated in conjunction with Zimbabwe’s MBCU as they executed a third conservation-related arrest. This time it was Paul Chingwaro, a buyer and seller of ivory, who found himself in handcuffs. Mr. Chingawaro worked with poachers as a middleman, (illegally) selling their illegally obtained animal parts. These raids and arrests follow a two-month investigation by IAPF’s Akashinga unit…and the excellent outcomes show what these rangers are capable of accomplishing. Sentences Handed Down Shortly after his arrest, Mr. Fopo received a mandatory prison sentence of nine years for violating two sections of the Parks and Wildlife Act (Chapter 20:14) which prohibit the transportation of animal parts and possession of ivory without a permit. He is expected to face additional poaching charges in court. On 14 June 2018, Mr. Tivapasi was also sentenced to nine years in jail for violating two sections of the Parks and Wildlife Act. He is under further investigation by Zimbabwe’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for murder charges. These charges stem from a shootout with National Park rangers which resulted in the death of two people. On 18 June 2018, Mr. Chingawaro was sentenced to nine years for violating two sections of the Parks and Wildlife Act (Chapter 20:14)—transportation of animal parts and possession of ivory without a permit. These three recent arrests by your Akashinga team bring their total arrests to 51. This is a great result under any circumstances, but consider a few things:
- This unit only completed training in October 2017.
- Although fully qualified, these rangers are still refining their skills.
- The networks of informants and community supporters they depend upon are still on developing.
- The people they are fighting against have been operating for years (some of them decades) together…and the poachers are often well-funded.
- In contrast to previous law enforcement attempts, the offenders had no chance to flee and were taken into custody with no violence. All evidence was seized and preserved
IAPF’s brave ones, the Akashinga female rangers, need your help to continue achieving these successes. They are doing their part, risking their lives every day. Are you ready help them? Will you join the wildlife wars by donating today? By working together, and with your support, the women of IAPF’s Akashinga program have sent shockwaves of disruption through poaching networks since their anti-poaching unit was formed less than a year ago. This unit of local women, all of whom live near the reserve they protect, works in and alongside their local communities. They are humble, but they are powerful, and they are making a difference for wildlife and ecosystems even as you read this. Saving Wildlife from Needless DeathIn April 2018, BBC World News embedded with Akashinga as the unit conducted four raids resulting in four arrests – and prison sentences for all four poachers. One of those men was sentenced to nine years in prison for poaching elephants with the deadly poison cyanide. IAPF’s Akashinga program and its female rangers are showing the world that women can excel at the frontline conservation work traditionally reserved for their male counterparts. None of us at IAPF are surprised by the achievements of these rangers, and anticipate that they will continue destroying negative stereotypes in the same manner that they are destroying poaching operations. Many of us frequently talk about the Akashinga team, but we want to share a direct quote with you, from one of them: “We are proud to be playing our part in the protection of this region’s magnificent wildlife. I’m sure we will run out of poachers before we run our of elephants.” ~ Sergeant Vimbai Kumire [if only you could have seen the powerful smile on her face as she said it…]