The all-female Akashinga anti-poaching unit in Africa, led by Damien Mander, has successfully protected animals across 9 million acres but faces criticism for its militaristic approach and lack of focus on long-term development.
Akashinga, an all-female anti-poaching unit in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, and Tanzania, has been successful in protecting animals, particularly elephants, across 9 million acres. Led by Damien Mander, the unit consists of several hundred local women who undergo rigorous training, similar to special operations forces. The group has arrested over 1,100 poachers with convictions for over 84 percent of them. However, the militaristic nature of the group has drawn criticism, particularly from South Africa’s Black Mamba anti-poaching unit. Some critics believe that Akashinga does not focus enough on long-term development projects and community engagement. Despite the criticism, the program has significantly impacted over 2,000 indigenous Zimbabweans, 500+ households, and over 800 school-aged children. The success of both the Akashinga and Black Mamba units demonstrates that security and development go hand-in-hand in addressing the issue of poaching.