Since Mali Formed A Brigade To Protect Its Elephants 9 Months Ago, Not A Single Elephant Has Been Lost To Poachers


Since Mali Formed A Brigade To Protect Its Elephants 9 Months Ago, Not A Single Elephant Has Been Lost To Poachers

October 30, 2017


Mali elephant brigade
Herd of elephants in Mali / Credit: Jake Wall/Reuters


In January 2016, Susan Canney, director of the Mali Elephant Project, predicted all of Mali’s elephants would be killed within three years if poaching continued unabated.


“They are probably among the most extremely endangered of Africa’s elephants,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder of Save the Elephants, a wildlife advocacy group. “I am extremely worried.”


To defend the 300 or so elephants that remain, Mali formed an anti-poaching brigade.


Mali elephant brigade
Credit: Susan Canney / iied.org


The brigade combines rangers and army forces, a necessary pairing for protecting wildlife in this hostile territory.


Since the brigade deployed nine months ago, not a single elephant has been lost to poachers.


As its head instructor, the army-ranger brigade brought in Rory Young, a co-founder of Chengeta Wildlife, an organization that trains and supports anti-poaching operations.


Young and his team created a special training program that included traditional techniques for operating in the bush.


For extra support, the brigade hired Mitch and Bobby, two chocolate-colored spaniels who have been trained to sniff out ivory during search missions. The team takes the dogs on searches when they get intelligence about traffickers’ hideouts.


elephant brigade Mali
Nigel Kuhn for Chengeta Wildlife/ Reuters


Sgt. Djibril Sangare, a ranger with the brigade, said protecting elephants is vital for Mali’s and the world’s heritage, adding that he had never seen an elephant before joining the brigade and now considers them the greatest animal.


“The work,” Sergeant Sangare said, “it is love.”



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