The horrors of poaching plague many countries around the world. Hunters illegally kill game for profit. Efforts to stop them are endless. The International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) is part of these efforts, and in 2017, they founded a particular group in Zimbabwe to help protect elephants: the Akashinga. The all-female team of rangers has worked to keep the tens of thousands elephants in Zimbabwe safe—as well as lions and rhinos. Their work has contributed to an 80% reduction in elephant poaching in the Lower Zambezi Valley. And National Geographic has just put the spotlight on the group in a new short documentary called Akashinga: The Brave Ones.
Akashinga translates to “brave ones” in the local dialect, and they are indeed brave ones to stand against violent poachers. Former Australian special forces soldier and anti-poaching leader Damien Mander founded the team. And initially, it started with 16 women. Their numbers have grown since then. The Akashinga is comprised of highly trained exceptional warriors. National Geographic’s short, released on World Elephant Day, showcases how the group operates, their incredible passion and devotion, and their military-like training. As the documentary begins, 500 recruits for the Akashinga arrive. Around eighty of them will graduate. The process is intense. And it has to be because of the armed and dangerous poachers they will inevitably encounter.
You can watch Akashinga: The Brave Ones below, and I highly recommend doing so. Maria Wilhelm directed the documentary, while James Cameron produced it.
As you can see in the documentary, the women come to join the Akashinga for different reasons. They want to protect the community from poachers, of course. But it’s more than that. It’s a path to independence. Some want to be able to provide for their children and families. And others want to stand strong after suffering domestic assault. Their stories are powerful, and their work battling poachers? Even more so.
Featured Image: National Geographic