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Despite a language and culture gap many would consider formidable, two law enforcement rangers from the U.S. Park Service bonded instantly with a group of 28 Maasai game scouts from the South Rift in Kenya.
During an intensive, ConserVentures-sponsored three-day workshop held at the Lale’enok Resource Center, about 90 miles south of Nairobi, Gary Haynes and Michael Hardin shared their training and experience in tactics for tracking poachers who might be armed and capable of laying an ambush to surprise their pursuers. In return, Gary and Michael were embraced as brethren by the Maasai rangers, who quickly recognized and valued their shared professionalism and similar challenges, and who gave as good as they received in explaining fieldcraft relevant to the African bush. Michael Lenaimado, head of the scouts and fluent in Maa and English, translated throughout the training, but after the first day or two much of the one-on-one interaction seemed to take place more by telepathy than talking.
The Maasai game scouts in Kenya’s South Rift Valley will soon have extra skills—and some extra equipment—in their arsenal, to help them to continue protecting the rich wildlife of the Shompole and Olkirimatian communities.
ConserVentures has hired Gary Haynes, a retired law enforcement officer with the U.S. Park Service, to lead a seminar in early October to lead a professional development seminar in early October to teach 35 scouts additional skills in tactical anti-poaching tracking. Gary was trained in man-tracking techniques by such specialists as David Scott Donelan, a veteran of the bush wars in southern Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. Assisting Gary will be Michael Hardin, a currently serving law enforcement officer with the Park Service who has extensive experience tracking and pursuing smugglers and fugitives throughout the western U.S., and ConserVentures volunteers Mike McCarthy of Park City and Bill Meilhan of Texas.
Tracking poachers through the African bush is a bit different than following a set of hoofprints in the hope of spotting a kudu for a photo safari. To start with, kudus don’t carry AK47s. Nor are they likely to double back and set up a point ambush.
Whether you’re after man or beast, tracking is an intensely focused activity. Signs are usually faint and ambiguous—a partial print here, a scuff there. It’s like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing. A good tracker looks ahead frequently to infer in which direction his quarry is likely to have gone, but 90% of the time his attention is directed just a few feet ahead.
And that can be hazardous if the quarry is a band of armed poachers. To improve game ranger success and personal safety, ConserVentures is working with the South Rift Game Scouts in Kenya to pay for and host a tactical tracking seminar in Kenya this October, as part of our Resources for Rangers program. Our team includes professional law enforcement officers for five days of intensive instruction.
Three thousand miles through Tanzania and Kenya: An impeccably prepared and kitted Land Rover 110 300Tdi, loaned to us by Shaw Safaris in Arusha, carried us across a major portion of Tanzania in a quest for three goals: potential safari routes for future trips with guests, new opportunities for ConserVentures to support small, community-based conservation projects, and the delivery of donated equipment to the South Rift Game Scouts. Through a bit of persistence and some nearly unbelievable synchronicity, we succeeded in all three.