I'm a former navy diver and special operations sniper, who went from training Iraq paramilitary forces, to training the world’s first all-female ranger unit in charge of protecting an entire nature reserve from poachers. My name is Damien Mander, ...
Thank you all for an amazing marathon session. There is some really good dialog and information within this thread for any latecomers. All up with matched funding we have managed to raise almost US$25,000. This will go towards expanding our operations and hiring more rangers. Thank you all so much. From Zimbabwe, signing out, Damien
I began my career in the Australian Royal Navy and later worked as a special operations sniper in the Australian Defense Force. I then moved on to the private sector in Iraq, where I was training men who, faced with the harsh reality of the front line, would either desert, join the militia or be killed.
On a trip to Southern Africa, I was shocked at the continuous slaughter of rhinos and elephants. Populations of these beautiful animals were suffering a 40% loss, mostly due to poaching for illegal ivory trade.
Inspired by this I founded the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending at-risk wildlife.
Back in 2014, thanks to your help we made history with an AMA. We raised money to support the front lines of the war against Rhino poaching.
This was along the South African/Mozambique border, where a third of the worlds rhino’s live. In the coming months, we were able to reduce incursions of rhino poachers through our area of operation and into the largest rhino population on earth by over 90%.
A great joint effort which we are, and you should be proud of. Thank you.
While this was an invaluable weapon in our battle, a direct war on poaching is only part of the equation needed to help protect these endangered species in the longterm.
We learned something important:
In order to sustain conservation efforts successfully, you need to win the hearts and minds of the local community.
This realization led us to create a very special project: Akashinga…
Akashinga (meaning the ‘Brave Ones’) is an all-female ranger unit patrolling, conducting raids and arrests on known poachers, and helping to protect an area of 230,000 acres. They work with the local community to prevent wildlife crime, and watch over the growing wildlife populations of the lower Zambezi region of Zimbabwe.
You can find out more about how the Akashinga team did this in this Imgur album.
But here’s what’s even more incredible about Akashinga’s members...
All the ranger women have troubled pasts. They were all either survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, single mothers, abandoned wives, or are AIDS orphans.
Our goal and how you can help...
We need to hire more women and create a new task force to patrol this reserve! (You guys can name it!) We have several donors willing to match your donations up to $35,000 during this AMA to make this task force happen!
If you’re able to donate $25 or more to help these incredible women protect these beautiful endangered animals, we’ll send you a pack of these sweet limited edition IAPF/Reddit stickers as a token of thanks for your support.
You can donate here: https://www.iapf.org/reddit/
More importantly, you’ll also know that your generosity has helped make a difference to both a community of women fighting to regain their independence and dignity, and also to the rhinos and elephants who are being illegally poached.
Also joining me...
For our AMA today I will be joined by Nyaradzo Hoto. Nyaradzo helps lead Akashinga operations. She is a divorced 26-year old woman from Hurungwe. She has a 6-year old daughter, Tariro.
“My marriage was so difficult for me because my former husband was so abusive. I was jobless for a long time, life was so tough. I started working last year in August as a ranger of Akashinga and have managed to turn my life around.”
We choose today, Giving Tuesday, to do our AMA with you guys.
If you'd like to give support IAPF and the Akashinga project, thank you! Please click here: https://www.iapf.org/reddit/
P.S. You can also donate with crypto :)
Now, go ahead and ask me or Nyaradzo anything! Last time it was a super fun 6 hours and I’m ready for some awesome fun together again.
If you only had one shot at life, what would you do with it?
Edit - formatting and verification links
Edit - Nyaradzo is off to bed - if you have questions for her we'll get them answered tomorrow. I am still here answering all your questions tho! :D