British Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles went to Malawi, Africa for three months on an anti-poaching mission for the endangered black rhino.
They trained park rangers for African Parks, a non-profit organization that works with locals, governments and existing programs to save endangered animals. In collaboration with African Parks and The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Ezemvelo KZN, British soldiers transported 17 black rhinos from South Africa to Malawi.
In one of the biggest rhino relocations done to date they used land and air transport in the process of moving the endangered animals to a much safer area.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), black rhino populations fell 98% between 1960-1995 to just around 2,500 left. Currently thanks to recover efforts their numbers are now estimated around 5,500 in the wild.
Black rhinos aren’t out of the woods yet though as they are still listed as critically endangered and targeted by poachers for their horns to sell on the black market. In China tigers parts, rhino horns, elephant tusks, and pangolin scales are all used in traditional folk medicine despite there being no scientific evidence that it works.
The soldiers and those that assisted them had a “hugely successful” mission according to Major Jez England, officer commanding British Army Counter-Poaching Team in Liwonde.
“Not only do we share skills with the rangers, improving their efficiency and ability to patrol larger areas, but it also provides a unique opportunity for our soldiers to train in a challenging environment. Helping with the rhino move was a fitting end to our time in Malawi, getting up close to the animals we are here to help protect was an experience the soldiers won’t forget.” The Major said.
To date, British soldiers have trained 200 rangers in Malawi and no “high-value species” poaching’s have occurred since 2017.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News:
“Working with local communities, host governments, and wildlife groups is key to our approach, we want to see sustainable, community-led solutions that help promote security and stability for both the people and wildlife of Africa.”
£36 million dollars have been committed to a counter-poaching initiative funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs between 2014 and 2021.