Being in the army isn’t always a predictable job. British soldiers stationed in Africa right now, for instance, are weighing in on the fight against illegal wildlife poaching. They are training local rangers in skills – tracking, infantry, bushcraft and information analysis – that everyone is hoping will help them stay one step ahead of people involved in trading in endangered species. A trade which is becoming dangerously close to allowing treasured animals like elephants, rhinos and lions to be completely wiped out.
Last February, Gavin Williamson, Defence Secretary, announced that the British Army will be scaling up their counter-poaching training at two parks (Nkhotakota and Majete Wildlife Reserves) in Malawi. This will double the number of rangers being trained by the British Army – to 120.
Williamson praised the British armed forces who are “playing their part in putting an end to this sickening and illegal industry” which he feels is poaching a serious risk to “majestic” animals. He added: “By providing training and mentoring to the park rangers, they will form a skilled network to ensure that the world’s precious species are here for generations to come.” He’s not wrong to be concerned, this trade is estimated to have halved the country’s elephant population from 4,000 in the 1980s to 2,000 in 2015. Sickening, we’re sure you will agree.
The operation currently taking place at Nkhotakota and Majete Wildlife Reserves began last May. Brighton Kumchedwa, director of National Parks and Wildlife in Malawi, is a big fan of this sort of thing. “We are really pleased that the British Army will be returning to Malawi to work in partnership with the Malawian authorities and African Parks on counter-poaching activities,” he said before the operation began.
“This will build on the success of their previous deployment and ensure that life becomes increasingly difficult for those intent on wildlife crime in Malawi,” he added.
Although the British Army is primarily concerned with protecting the security of Britain, there are a lot of other causes that we attach ourselves to. When the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone was in full swing, in 2014, we sent more than 800 military personnel to help battle the outbreak. We built six treatment centres, each with 100 beds, and they were handed over to civilian aid agencies.
In December 2017, members of AFMA travelled to Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh, on a fact-finding mission to learn more about the international aid efforts which are supporting Rohingya refugees in the country. A British soldier was among a rescue team hailed as “great heroes” by Theresa May earlier this month after they rescued 12 children and one adult from a flooded cave in Thailand.
No two days are the same for the British Army. As long as we are sure that a mission is vital to upholding the values of peace, justice and security – either domestically or internationally – we’re happy to get involved.