An all-female army has been working tirelessly together to protect their elephants from poachers in Zimbabwe and they’re truly inspiring…
With it being one of the largest mammals in the world, elephants are greatly respected in many different cultures.
And elephants are usually spotted in groups of around 6 or 7 females, and they are known to join other groups of elephants to form a larger group.
As a result of human activity, both Asian and African elephants are now listed as endangered, with fewer than 50,000 left in both the wild and captivity.
The first is poaching – they are relentlessly poached for their ivory tusks.
As urbanization, industrial development, and agricultural expansion increase in countries like India and Indonesia, elephants’ habitats are shrinking rapidly.
And the ones who have survived our destruction?
Well, captivity is the only answer.
Elephants are usually at the top of a tourist’s list when visiting countries across Asia and Africa, and locals have been cashing in on the exploitation of these animals for decades now.
However, not all captive environments are so cruel.
There are so many national parks and organizations that provide these elephants with the environment and care that they deserve.
There is some hope…
And the likes of anti-poaching campaigns, breeding programs, and wildlife organizations have been helping replenish the population of these majestic creatures.
And that’s the Akashinga.
The Akashinga is an arm of the nonprofit International Anti-Poaching Foundation, which manages Zimbabwe’s Phundundu Wildlife Area – a 115-square-mile former trophy hunting tract in the Zambezi Valley ecosystem.
They protect their elephants, rhinos, and lions from poachers, cyanide, and snare traps.
And the Akashinga (meaning “brave ones” in the Shona language) patrol Phundundu, which borders twenty-nine communities.
The organization consists of an all-female team.
And many of the Akashinga’s members are survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse.
Since 2017, Akashinga rangers have made hundreds of arrests and helped drive an 80 percent downturn in elephant poaching in Zimbabwe’s Lower Zambezi Valley.
And on World Elephant Day, Akashinga: The Brave Ones was released by National Geographic as a short documentary to outline the hard work that these women put in day in and day out.
Speaking to Elle, Nyaradzo Auxillia Hoto and Petronella Chigumbura opened up.
Hoto escaped an abusive marriage in 2017 and since joining, she has risen up in the ranks and now works as a sergeant. Chigumbura is a single mom of 2 and is working tirelessly to provide for her family.
“The way I love my kids is the same way I love wildlife, and this has helped me to create a strong bond with the animals. Akashinga ladies just live as a family with the wildlife, Chigumbura explained.
“We’ve got a motherly, caring heart. I don’t want to see any cruelty inflicted on any animal. It pierces my heart. Because our unit is a community-based program, I once had to arrest one of my relatives. I had no option but to arrest them because it’s my top priority to save wildlife.”
“Animals were afraid of us when we first started to protect them. They only thought of being shot. Animals shouldn’t suffer or feel pain for the sake of our needs and desires. They have the right to live and enjoy their life,” Hoto said.
“They also have an aesthetic value, a natural beauty and artistic value that I find so lovely. When justice is served in terms of the arrests and convictions…Now the animals feel secure and we have a strong bond with them. We are like family.”
So much more still needs to be done.
“Educating the community on how important wildlife and nature is can be a great step toward saving more animals. Supporting community members with different projects, since most poachers are driven by poverty and hunger, can help them sustain their families.”
And make sure to keep on reading to learn about the amazing dogs that have been trained to protect rhinos from poachers…