A recent poacher tracking exercise in the foothills of Kilimanjaro has proven a good example of how the unexpected will always happen on Ranger operations – and how the LEAD training program sharpens rangers’ critical skills.

Trainees, split into a ‘suspects’ group and two ranger tracking teams, were set up with a pursuit situation: suspects would be deemed to have escaped if they reached a point 25 kilometres from their start.  The tracking teams were deployed two hours after the suspects started their escape.

In order to close the time-distance gap and make an arrest, rangers would have to visually track the suspects, and quickly establish a direction of interception.
The tracking teams made a good start, established numbers of suspects and age of indicators, also making predictions of where the suspects were heading. An earlier airborne sighting, with help from the Elephant Protection Trust set them firmly in the right direction.

However, in a critical moment, when the two tracking teams needed to link up, the GPS system in a pursuit vehicle started to malfunction and they lost close to two valuable hours.

In the meantime, the suspects had changed direction dramatically.

Fortunately, to the credit of the ranger teams’ tracking skills, tracking was re-established and they pushed hard ahead.

The trainee rangers managed to close with and ‘arrest’ the ‘suspects’, three kilometres before they would have made their escape.

  • Total distance covered by the ‘suspects’ (red team): 21.9 km
  • Time ‘distance gap’ at the start of the exercise: 2 hrs
  • Start of pursuit: 0744
  • Arrest made: 1134

The LEAD Ranger program: empowering the next generation of frontline conservation leaders and proudly funded by The Thin Green Line Foundation.

Read more about the LEAD Ranger program

Photo by Wilco van den Akker