Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, The Irish Guards have recently completed a successful deployment to Zambia to help train local rangers counter the threat from poaching.
Known as Operation ‘CORDED’ this was the seventh deployment of British troops in support of the UK Government's aim of cracking down this cruel and barbaric trade.
"Exciting and worthwhile" LIEUTENANT COLONEL ROB MONEY, 1ST BATTALION IRISH GUARDS
Having already trained over 300 rangers during previous Op CORDED deployments to Malawi and Zambia, 30 soldiers from the 1st Battalion the Irish Guards (1IG) provided additional training in interception tracking tactics to park rangers in Kafue National Park, which is in the centre of western Zambia.
In recent years climate change and the impact on the human biosphere has been profound. With many areas on the planet, especially sub-Saharan Africa, showing signs of bio-stress, it has also had an impact on the animal kingdom too.
As areas become increasingly difficult to farm this has increased the rate of human migration. In some circumstances this has meant increasing human encroachment on animal habitats and with this comes the menace of poaching.
"Rewarding and interesting" Officer Commanding (OC) Major Charlie Foinette on ‘Op CORDED 7’
With an estimated worth of £17 billion a year the illegal trade in wildlife, combined with habitat loss, means that poaching presents species already low in numbers with an uncertain and precarious future and possible extinction in our generation.
In an attempt to help reverse the impact of poaching, a counter-poaching ranger partnering programme has been funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
With the overall goal being the reduction of the impact of poaching by securing animals in their natural habitat, the programme aims to facilitate skills-sharing between the troops and the rangers who are experienced operating in bush environments.
With the UK Government already committed to spend £36m to tackle the illegal wildlife trade between 2014 and 2021, the Army’s delivery of this support on the ground is vital.
The introduction of new techniques and equipment are making a big difference. Rangers are now issued light weight patrol packs and first aid kits. This has enabled an increase in patrol duration, distance and independence. With this independence they have also gained confidence in their ability to operate further from base areas, allowing them to sustain work in more isolated locations where the poachers are more active.
To ensure that they were ready for the deployment the guards spent time in Kenya getting used to conditions similar to what they might encounter in Zambia. Practising skills and drills such as tracking and first aid – vital in both their deployment and vital knowledge that they can pass on to the rangers.
Lt Col Rob Money, Commanding Officer 1st Bn Irish Guards said: ‘Operation CORDED is one of the most exciting and worthwhile jobs the Army offers at the moment and demonstrates the enormous value of working closely with our partners at DEFRA and in Zambia to contribute to the protection of wildlife.
It is something about which I and my soldiers are passionate. This mission allows us to contribute to a legacy that will benefit our children and, just as importantly, it allows my soldiers to use their skills and experience to assist an impressive partner force who are engaged daily in this vital and dangerous work.
At the same time, the Rangers are teaching us how they live and operate in the African bush, valuable and fascinating lessons for any soldier. The welcome my soldiers have received in Zambia, and the enthusiasm of their partners has been wonderful – they are the most generous friends, and we are looking forward to continuing our long relationship with a valued Commonwealth partner.’
Officer Commanding (OC) Major (Maj) Charlie Foinette on ‘Op CORDED 7’ said: ‘This has been one of the most rewarding and interesting deployments I have experienced in nearly 20 years’ service. We were in the most beautiful surroundings, but much more importantly have the unique privilege of working alongside enormously impressive partners from the Department for National Parks and Wildlife, and from the National Anti-Poaching Task Force.
The job they undertake is difficult, dangerous and vital. Seeing at first hand their commitment, passion and deep knowledge of the wildlife they protect has been humbling. We have been able to assist them with skills that the British Army has invested in over many years, including first aid, planning and patrolling skills to make them safer when confronted with armed poachers.
At the same time, they have been generous in passing on their knowledge of the African bush, teaching us the skills they use to survive in an environment that is alien to us, but in which they are quite at home.
They are the most generous of hosts, rarely short of a smile, a song or a joke, and going home will be a genuine wrench. To be able to contribute even in a small way to a task that has such a direct bearing on the world our children will inherit is a great privilege, and my team will cherish the experiences and sights of this place for years to come.
It is a point of particular pride to us that HMG, through DEFRA, are supporting this vital work, and it is impressive to see first-hand what can be achieved using a very modest investment of taxpayers’ money. It is well spent, and I know that it is greatly appreciated by a Commonwealth partner with whom we enjoy such a strong mutual bond of friendship.’