African Wildlife Scouts. The perils of protecting our wildlife. A photographic journey.

This scout engraved his gun after 90 days in the field
This scout engraved his gun after 90 days in the field

The subject of my essay are the Wildlife Officers who work to protect the National Parks from poachers on a meager pay. As most photographs in Africa are only of the beautiful animals themselves and I wanted to show the other side of the scene and portray the individuals who risk their lives daily to save Africa’s dwindling wildlife. These officers, men and women, face backlash from the community who want to poach to survive and make a living and see the government as putting the lives of animals above those of their own people. This is an emotionally charged issue in Zambia and Africa that is rarely explored.
Locals here see the wild animals as a threat to their farm crops as elephants will wonder into neighboring farms to raid them as easy sources of food as they continue to encroach into their last remaining habitats. Also, as villages are located in the middle of nowhere, poaching is an source of income from the animal meat which is sought after by wealthy Zambians and the sales of the skins and tusks to the tourists who will illegally buy it cheaply to smuggle home.
The work of the officers is based on military training at a huge cost to the government and is also supported by NGO agencies willing to help the cause. Largely though, the wild animals of Africa are seen as a white mans luxury at the expense of the poor, starving villagers. These officers face this daily at the battle’s forefront often coming to conflict with their own friend and family who are desperate for a chance to upgrade their lifestyles.

Scouts must endure the harsh conditions of the African heat
Scouts must endure the harsh conditions of the African heat
Scouts will determine the best strategic points for surveillance. Temporary villages are often alloowed at certain times of year for fishermen to enter the parks but often becomes a center for poaching instead
Scouts will determine the best strategic points for surveillance. Temporary villages are often allowed at certain times of year for fishermen to enter the parks but often becomes a center for poaching instead
Scouts have little allowances for rations and ammunition which is why help from NGO's is so important to the future of our parks.
Scouts have little allowances for rations and ammunition which is why help from NGO’s is so important to the future of our parks.
Although rare, females are employed as scouts in the field.
Although rare, females are employed as scouts in the field.
Scouts live close to the animals they protect.
Scouts live close to the animals they protect.
Due to encroachment of villages the animals have no where left to go but the parks are are easy prey
Due to encroachment of villages the animals have no where left to go but the parks are are easy prey
Used for surveilence and an early warning system when looking for poachers drying racks and hide outs
Used for surveilence and an early warning system when looking for poachers drying racks and hide outs
It is not uncommon for poachers to take out their anger on the scouts families at their home villages
It is not uncommon for poachers to take out their anger on the scouts families at their home villages
Poachers have skinned the carcass and removed the meat. Lions and other predators have already picked the bones dry
Poachers have skinned the carcass and removed the meat. Lions and other predators have already picked the bones dry
Poachers never rest so neither can the scouts
Poachers never rest so neither can the scouts
Daily meetings are held to determine deployment areas
Daily meetings are held to determine deployment areas
Policy is to shoot when fired upon as poachers are often military trained and better armed than the scouts.
Policy is to shoot when fired upon as poachers are often military trained and better armed than the scouts.
Ready to go in an instant. Scouts are armed in case of conflict
Ready to go in an instant. Scouts are armed in case of conflict
scouts are specially trained to monitor and track sensitive animals in the parks
scouts are specially trained to monitor and track sensitive animals in the parks

By Elise Brazier.

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