We face uncertain times – there is no question of that. However, without sounding too cliched, in every challenge lies opportunity. Some things in our world will fundamentally change as a result of the current pandemic, but others will remain the same. One of those things is the critical importance of conserving the world’s wild places.
If anything, one possible positive outcome of all of this may be a newfound appreciation of just how connected we all are. That we need to profoundly alter our relationships with one another. And that this necessarily includes our relationship with the natural world.
Over the past six weeks I had the immense privilege of working alongside an organisation and team that understand this better than most. An organisation that lives and breathes conservation – for the benefit of nature, wildlife and the people who live alongside it each and every day.
At the start of 2020 the Grumeti Fund requested assistance in delivering a bespoke selection and training course for a cohort of new Game Scouts. The task was clear: identify and adequately prepare individuals to join the Grumeti Fund’s law enforcement department. Working to protect the Serengeti ecosystem as well as the communities who depend upon it for their own survival.
Thousands of people from across Tanzania applied to take part in the course, with a select few invited for interview and only the very best chosen to begin training.
Living and working alongside these individuals, as well as the Grumeti Fund’s own existing Game Scouts, was an exceptionally humbling experience. Those young men worked unbelievably hard, in very trying circumstances, and demonstrated a real passion for and belief in the work they will soon be doing. They gave their absolute best at all times and managed to smile through everything that was thrown at them. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement.
But it was not just the young men undergoing training that impressed me.
A lot is made of and said about so-called public-private partnerships (PPP) the world-over. In the Grumeti Fund I can honestly say that I have witnessed a strong, successful partnership delivering on its mandate and promises. To the benefit of all.
The Grumeti Fund works extremely closely with the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA), the Ikona Wildlife Management Area as well as several commercial entities in ensuring that both people and wildlife thrive in the long-term. This fact was very much reflected in the delivery of the selection and training course, which was superbly supported by Game Scouts and instructors seconded from TAWA as well as the Pasiansi Wildlife Training Institute and even the Grumeti Fund’s own conservation management department.
Over six weeks the training team covered everything from basic fieldcraft and safe weapon handling, human rights and rules of engagement, crime scene management and evidence handling, to potentially dangerous game and the Tanzania Wildlife Act. All of which was made possible by pooling the knowledge and resources of several public and private entities working in unison to achieve the same aim.
Of course, you can’t learn everything there is to know about being a Game Scout in just a matter of weeks. There will be a lot of on-the-job training that takes place – learning from their colleagues and the environment itself. However, I would be more than happy to stand should-to-shoulder with those who successfully completed the selection and training course; operating alongside them in the field.
And it is this point that is critically important to bear in mind. While the world, quite rightly, manages the fall-out of the current crisis the Grumeti Fund must continue business as usual. Or at least as much as is possible. The proactive management of the ecosystem, inclusive of wildlife crime prevention and law enforcement, simply cannot afford to come to a stop. The Game Scouts must and will continue to operate – for all our sakes!
But, rest assured, the individuals joining the Grumeti Fund team are some of the very best I have worked with in almost a decade of training people and teams. They are fit, intelligent and capable young men who will do their communities, country and the world proud.