In previous months, two New Zealand soldiers deployed to Malawi, Africa, to teach British Army units the secrets of bushcraft and anti-poaching.
According to the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), one of the soldiers was from the New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS), and the other from the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (RNZIR). New Zealand troops are famous across the international special operations community for the superb tracking and bushcraft abilities.
“Bushcraft and tracking are two of the specialist skills that New Zealand troops are known for,” McKinstry said Col. Rian McKinstry, the New Zealand Special Operations Component Commander.
The two Kiwis were complementing British instructors from the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles. The curriculum included bushcraft, tracking, anti-tracking, and wilderness survival techniques.
“The purpose of the bushcraft training is to share our experience, so that the British soldiers can thrive in the wild and achieve their mission,” said the NZSAS operator, whose name was withheld for operational security reasons.
The British soldiers and their Kiwi instructors often went out on long-range reconnaissance patrols, during which their goal was to observe any unnatural activity that would suggest the presence of poachers.
A tracker needs to pay close attention to any disturbances or signs in the environment, so they can understand the psychology of their quarry or target and anticipate their actions and where they are heading,” said Lance Cpl. Jed Maskill, the soldier from the RNZIR.”
Statistics from the NZDF indicate the poaching and trafficking of ivory, rhinoceros’ horns, and other wildlife materials worth approximately $23 billion per year. That makes it the fifth-largest organized crime in the world. An unseen but significant result of this is the impoverishment of the local communities because of the adverse effect that the poaching and trafficking have on the local economy. Additionally, the rule of law and democratic institutions are discredited in these areas, thereby promoting further illegal activities.
On May 5th, a British soldier was killed during an anti-poaching patrol. Guardsman Mathew Talbot, who was assigned to the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, died when an elephant attacked him. This was his first operational deployment. Previously, he served with the Number 7 Company, Coldstream Guards, in ceremonial duty in London.
Reuters reported that the British Acting Defence Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, said, “This tragic incident is a reminder of the danger our military faces as they protect some of the world’s most endangered species from those who seek to profit from the criminal slaughter of wildlife.”
The presence of Western troops in the area also serves as an early-warning and response system in case of terrorist or kidnapping incidents. Earlier in May, French commandos conducted a hostage-rescue operation in Burkina Faso. Two of the hostages had gone safari before they were kidnapped. All four hostages were safely freed, but unfortunately, two French special operators were killed.
Between 1980 and 2015, Malawi’s elephant population has shrunk by half—from about 4,000 to less than 2,000.