At current poaching rates, rhinos, elephants and other iconic African Wildlife may be gone within our lifetime. Between 2014 and 2017, 100,000 African Elephants were killed for ivory. In 2019, 594 poaching incidents were recorded in South Africa alone. This is far too high; however, it is lower than previous years, due to the diligent and proactive efforts of a few, key groups.
The Eco Defense Group (EDGE) is an ambitious African counter-poaching and conservation organisation. Working directly on the front lines, EDGE strives to develop more effective, capable and better equipped counter-poaching teams.
In order to achieve this EDGE constantly seek out-of-the-box thinking and small team effectiveness. They are dedicated to their vision of an Africa without poaching and are building a dynamic international coalition to enhance frontline counter-poaching efforts, whilst giving back to the communities that support them in this vision.
It is important to note the risks and dangers of being a ranger in Africa. Between 2009 and 2016, 600 rangers were killed in the line of duty. This is not normal charity operational circumstances; this is life and death; doing the right things for the right reasons.
With our years of combat experience and expertise, Level Peaks has partnered with EDGE to advise and provide them with the best possible systems, at budget, to help them achieve their mission. Here at Level Peaks we pride ourselves on our ability to build systems for any situation; a solution for any problem.
The problem was not insignificant. Level Peaks staff set about delivering the ideal system, in collaboration with the Krueger Park Rangers, which would match the operational requirements, whilst being optimal for the environment. With constant dialogue between our team and Krueger Park’s, as well as pulling on our existing knowledge of the best products and using our network into the world of modern warfare, Level Peaks were able to bring together the best kit for the Rangers. This was developed and designed in the same way as all our systems and so was subsequently titled: The Ranger System.
The crux of the Ranger System was ballistic protection, to give rangers a more effective layer of protection than they had been operating with, which was also lightweight and breathable enough to be suitable for the African climate. There was also the added element of needing a lightweight body armour which allowed for more ease of movement due to the fast-deploy, rapid response nature of most anti-poaching operations. The plate was, therefore, fitted to be snug to minimise movement when running, with bulk stripped away to avoid snagging in the African bush.
To increase flexibility, the system was designed so different pouches and packs could be fitted but with the pouches set for the rangers’ specific weapon magazine. Velcro was also avoided to decrease unnecessary noise and reduce aforementioned snagging.
Giving Rangers better kit, designed in such a way as to maximise their efficiency of operation is one of the best ways we can combat poaching in Africa. Combined with efforts to provide alternative revenue for the poachers themselves, and encouraging sustainable conservation efforts, poaching has started to stabilise and, in some cases, even drop. African Rhino poaching decreased by almost a quarter in 2018 and Level Peaks feel immensely proud to be involved in the protection and conservation of these beautiful, endangered animals. However Rhino horn is now being touted as a cure to the Coronavirus, with China one of the worst offenders in illegal animal product sales and trafficking. Though it may take time to see the results of our efforts, we knew we had to be a part of the solution.
Currently the most effective way to combat poaching is through equipping and training the people on the ground: the rangers. Level Peaks looks forward to what comes next in our collaboration with EDGE and we hope to see the levels of poaching continue to decrease.
Images from EDGE and EDGE Instagram: @ecodefensegroup