Soldiers from 1 SCOTS (Royal Scots Borderers) have been training park rangers and native trackers in Gabon to help save one of the last strongholds of the African Forest Elephant. The species is facing extinction as ivory poaching reaching epidemic levels across a wide swathe of the Congo River basin in west Africa.
After a request for help from President Ondimba of Gabon, a team of troops from 2 Rifles based at Lisburn and 1 SCOTS based at Holywood in Northern Ireland have spent the last month deep in the African forests.
The troops have been passing on military skills including patrolling techniques and methods for the preservation of evidence as well as teaching rangers anti-ambush and analysis techniques. Major Mark Shercliffe commented this week: “The students are highly motivated, keen to learn and keen to complete the training and then get back onto the front line.”
Several years ago an estimated 22,000 forest elephants roamed the region – there are now believed to be less than 7,000.
Their forest habitat prohibits counting methods like visual identification. Their population is usually estimated through “dung counts”—an analysis on the ground of the density and distribution of the faeces.