In the remote protected areas of Central Africa, danger has a name: Lord’s Resistance Army, Janjaweed, Séléka, take your pick. “When we started working in Cameroon’s Faro National Park, we lost four village guards almost immediately due to conflict,” recalls Jef Dupain, African Wildlife Foundation’s (AWF’s) technical director for West and Central Africa.
So it is that AWF has partnered with an unlikely ally, Maisha Consulting, a firm run by Israeli security consultants, to implement conservation in Central Africa. “Insecurity and instability are increasing in this part of Africa, due to a combination of factors, such as desertification, population growth, competition for grazing resources, and of course, terrorism, “says Dupain. “We do frontline conservation. Here, doing conservation on the front lines requires focus, action and expertise of a completely different nature than what may be required in less-volatile regions.”
Through the partnership with Maisha, AWF has been able to engage more readily in high-risk, insecure areas such as Faro and Bili-Uele Protected Area Complex in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo — where AWF is protecting endangered chimpanzees and forest elephants. In such locations, Maisha provided training to wildlife rangers in military-style operations, including hand-to-hand combat, camouflage and tactical law enforcement. In Bili-Uele, Maisha has additionally worked to optimize security protocols for stakeholders. By making protected areas safer for rangers and wildlife alike, these efforts are providing an additional benefit: They are ensuring security for communities that have experienced the terror of kidnappings and attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Mayu is director of content and messaging for AWF, responsible for AWF's print and online content, collateral and overall organizational messaging. At home, she divides her time between being a tyrant to her family and napping on the living room couch. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mayu has nearly 20 years' experience in communications, storytelling and writing.
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