Founded in 2017 by Australian conservationist Damien Mander, Akashinga is an all-women anti-poaching group that operates in Zimbabwe. Mander, who is also the founder of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, formed his first ranger unit by recruiting survivors of domestic abuse and/or sexual assault, and continues to do so. These women undergo training similar to those received by special forces.
Akashinga, which means ‘the brave ones’ in local dialect, protects elephants, rhinos, lions and other wild animals from cyanide and snare traps. Since 2017, these rangers have arrested hundreds of poachers while bringing down elephant poaching in Zimbabwe’s Lower Zambezi Valley by 80%.
Mander wants the Akashinga model to expand and hopes to see 4,500 female rangers recruited by 2030 to patrol all poaching hotpots in the continent.
Following Mander’s example, who is a vegan and has often spoken about veganism publicly, most women rangers of Akashinga have adopted a vegan lifestyle at home. In order to make it easy for his team to consume plant-based foods, Mander partnered with Nicola Kagoro, who is the founder of African Vegan on a Budget, to set up Akashinga Back to Black Roots Vegan Kitchen and Garden. This was also an effort by the group to highlight the prevalence of plant-based diets in Africa before Westerners introduced commercial animal farming.
“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,” Mander was quoted as saying.
In 2020 on World Elephant Day, a short documentary ‘Akashinga: The Brave Ones’ was released by National Geographic. According to a statement on National Geographic’s website, “If a community understands the economic benefits of preserving animals, then it will eliminate poaching without an armed struggle.”
Produced by Academy Award winner James Cameron and directed by Maria Wilhelm, the documentary is now available on YouTube.
Source: National Geographic, BBC, Wikipedia, Forbes, VegFund