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"It takes passion"

Elias Chiweshe was trained in North Luangwa National Park and became a scout in 2003. Today, he is Park Ranger and leads the Rhino and Elephant Protection Unit (REPU), involving the planning of patrols, coordination of rhino monitoring and the unit’s operations.

To support your attendance and completion of your diploma at the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute, you were awarded the Grzimek sponsorship. Do you feel that has helped you in any way?

Yes, I acquired knowledge I did not have. I was promoted from senior wildlife police officer to ranger based on this qualification. It has improved my personal status in terms of monthly income, work responsibilities and respect from my family. It also helped me in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in wildlife conservation and natural resource management with Livingstone International University. I am enrolled in the second year.
Elias Chiweshe (r.), Elephant and Rhino Protection Unit, North Luangwa National Park (Photo: Ed Sayer)

Elias Chiweshe (r.), Elephant and Rhino Protection Unit, North Luangwa National Park (Photo: Ed Sayer)

As the Ranger in charge of the Rhino and Elephant Protection Unit, do you feel your unit is equipped and trained enough to deal with the elephant and rhino poaching threat?

Yes, the team received the best training and skills to deal with the elephant and rhino poaching threats. However, the equipment needs to be replaced over time and, more importantly, we need new and serviceable firearms and ammunition. We need to maintain a well motivated team of officers and gather as much information to react to the threats and make follow-ups.

What more do you think needs to be done to fight the poaching threat for elephant and rhino?

Officers should have a passion for the protection of our valuable resources in the country and in North Luangwa National Park, inparticular. Officers should know they are evaluated based on results and that it is not just a job. It takes passion to protect our elephants and rhinos. Therefore, the ministry should provide good working conditions for officers and indemnify officers in the field as they often risk their lives while protecting elephants, rhinos and other wildlife.

You have been involved with the North Luangwa rhino reintroduction and protection from the beginning. Can you explain the factors that have enabled this project to work?

I think the most important factor is the longterm partnership between Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife. This has enabled continuous support of the project. Last, but not least, it takes committed officers for law enforcement operations including monitoring of the rhinos.

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