Why These Anti-Poaching Rangers In Zimbabwe Are Vegan

Wildlife poaching is on the rise in Africa as the coronavirus pandemic squeezes the organizations devoted to stopping poachers, said the founder of the Zimbabwe-based International Anti-Poaching Foundation.
“We’ve seen a huge upturn,” said Damien Mander, displaying a graph charting a steep rise in the recovery of tusks from poached elephants.
“There’s a fairly steady line there with a dip just before covid and then a rapid upward turn as a result of a downtown in tourism and philanthropic giving.”
The coronavirus pandemic shut down African tourism, which funds many of the continent’s conservation activities. At the same time, Mander said, it caused a global economic depression that crushed philanthropic giving to conservation groups. Poachers have stepped into the gaps.
“It was the way we treated wildlife in the first place that got us into this mess, and now wildlife is suffering again,” Mander said, “and while we see bailout packages for humans and cities and countries all over the world, we’re not seeing that for animals.”
Pangolins On The March
In a webinar broadcast this week by EarthX, Mander displayed recent video of poached pangolins loaded into the back of a pickup truck. The armored mammals are a leading suspect as the intermediate mammal that bridged coronavirus to humans from a similar virus in bats.
The leap from pangolins to humans is believed to have occurred at a wildlife market in Wuhan, China, though Chinese scientists now say the Wuhan market may have been merely the site of a superspreader event.
“We talk about animals getting into wet markets, and (how) we’ve got to stop and close down the wet markets,” Mander said. “Well, the job of a ranger is to stop animals from getting there in the first place. I already thought the job of a ranger was the most important job in the world, but this has made me realize that rangers are the last line of defense not only for nature, but perhaps for humanity.”
The International Anti-Poaching Foundation trains a women-only force of rangers, known as Akashinga, which means “the brave ones” in the Shona language of Zimbabwe.
“As I can see through this pandemic it is very important to protect nature,” said Nyaradzo Hoto, an IAPF Akashinga ranger, “because nature right now is fighting for itself.”
Why Rangers Are Vegan
Hoto and other Akashinga are vegan, and Hoto said she has seen vegetarianism spreading among local communities in Zimbabwe during the pandemic.
“During this pandemic time, the majority part of the community, they are taking vegetarian dishes, they are almost like vegans,” she said. “We can take this time as an opportunity to educate them or to empower them with the knowledge of how good it is to be a vegan, and in turn good for the protection of the nature, to fight the pandemic.”
Mander, who was a Australian Army Special Forces sniper before founding IAPF, said he realized it made no sense to work as a conservationist while eating meat.
“The greatest negative environmental impact on this planet that we have is the meat industry. So being a conservationist, it didn’t make sense to me to be going out all day trying to protect one group of animals and coming home and putting another group of animals on the fire and supporting an industry that is responsible for massive deforestation and the death of over 100 billion animals a year.”

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