The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 October 2022
Namibia, adorned with vast and awe-inspiring landscapes, plays a vital role in the Kwando Wildlife Dispersal Area (WDA) by protecting the diverse wildlife that roam across borders that serve as an essential corridor for natural migration. Unfortunately, poaching and illegal logging pose significant challenges to the conservation efforts in this area, combined with the difficulties of accessing many parts of the transboundary area. Understandably, these present major obstacles to law enforcement operations, especially ground patrols.
Working as the guardians of these cherished landscapes and creatures are the field rangers, entrusted with the responsibility of conservation – as well as education, community support and leadership. Amongst these passionate individuals devoted to safeguarding and supporting delicate ecosystems stands Sandra Kahundu, a resolute young woman whose love for nature runs deep.
A Natural from the Start
Sandra’s fascination with wildlife began at a young age. Her father, a farmer, would take her with him to the farm, where she interacted with many kinds of animals. These interactions kindled a fire within her heart, igniting her desire to protect all nature, from wildlife to integral landscapes.
Enter the Field ranger training course, which is an innovative course aimed at strengthening and enhancing the capabilities of rangers by developing and standardising ongoing wildlife protection protocols in this transboundary environment. Together with the support of the European Union funded CITES MIKE Programme, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) Secretariat and various national wildlife agencies, the programme is empowering rangers with essential skills to better guard their realms.
In her quest to become a ranger, Sandra embarked on a rigorous training regime initiated by the KAZA Secretariat and Peace Parks Foundation, in collaboration with the Southern African Wildlife College. It was during this intensive training that she met fellow aspiring rangers, each sharing a similar devotion to the cause.
Sandra’s training journey was challenging but rewarding. The modules presented covered a wide range of essential skills, from Crowd Management to Tracking, and First Aid to Court Procedure. Through interactive explanations and practical sessions, she and her fellow trainees were tested, both mentally and physically. The role-play exercises required them to improvise and apply their knowledge in real-life scenarios, preparing them for the often-unpredictable laws of nature and inevitable threats.
As her training journey unfolded, Sandra encountered moments of uncertainty, yet her determination remained steadfast. With the challenging field exercises came tough moments, teaching her invaluable new skills that she wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
The Pride of the Pass Out Parade
Finally, the day of the Pass Out Parade arrived, marking the successful completion of the training. Sandra stood tall among her fellow rangers, proudly wearing her uniform. It was a triumphant moment, not only for her but also for the youth she aspires to inspire. Sandra is breaking stereotypes and demonstrating that both women and men can excel in this traditionally male-dominated role, creating a positive impact on their environment.
Beyond commemorating achievements, The Pass Out Parade holds a broader purpose; it symbolises a strong stance against poaching and illegal activities that endanger the region’s wildlife. For Sandra, it brings with it the realisation that the knowledge and skills acquired during the training would empower her to genuinely safeguard vital natural resources. Moreover, she now recognises the potential to serve as a role model for future generations of female rangers, motivating them to join the cause and become a powerful force for wildlife conservation.