Species Protection & Conservation with the Tracker Academy and the Rhino Guardians

The Tracker Academy and the Rhino Guardians project are two remarkable initiatives supported by the Londolozi Ripple Fund, aimed at preserving precious wildlife and Africa’s natural environment. These projects are making significant strides in the conservation of the African wilderness, which is threatened daily by human activities, such as poaching, and other forms of environmental degradation.

“The Tracker Academy works to restore ancient African animal tracking skills and indigenous knowledge”

Trackers in training with the Tracker Academy

The Tracker Academy is a non-profit organization that trains individuals from rural communities surrounding Londolozi to become skilled trackers. The academy was established in 2010 in partnership with Londolozi Game Reserve, and its overarching vision is to restore ancient African animal tracking skills and indigenous knowledge for the benefit of wildlife conservation. Tracker Academy’s mission is to demonstrate that the traditional skills of tracking have relevance in modern conservation efforts. The Tracker Academy provides an opportunity for local communities to be involved in the conservation of wildlife and the environment, while also developing skills that can lead to employment opportunities in the wildlife and tourism industries.

“Great trackers are disciplined and ethical people. You need excellent skills and a pure heart to be a master. At Tracker Academy we see problems start with the student not greeting us properly in the morning. Small attitude issues very quickly become dangerous problems for us in the bush.” ~ Renias Mhlongo, Trainer Mentor

Innocent Ngwenya, head trainer of the Tracker Academy leads the 2022 training group of trackers through Londolozi

The Rhino Guardians project, on the other hand, is a collaborative effort between the Tracker Academy and the South African National Parks (SANParks) to combat rhino poaching. Rhino poaching is a major threat to the survival of these magnificent animals in Africa, and the Rhino Guardians project is working hard to protect them from extinction. Each year, sixteen recruits are trained on a yearlong formally accredited Conservation Guardianship programme incorporating both specialist tracking skills and combat training. Graduates are then deployed in anti-poaching teams to create safe havens for endangered species to track and apprehend poachers before they can do any harm to Africa’s treasured giants.

We use the ancient African craft of animal tracking to create safe havens for endangered species, particularly rhino and elephant.” ~ Alex Van Den Heever

At the current rate of rhino losses in Kruger National Park, the species faces local extinction by 2028.

The anti-poaching forces are deficient in their ability to reverse this trend. There exists a lack of trained bushcraft and traditional tracking skills within the ranks of the anti-poaching personnel. And this is exactly what the Rhino Guardians are trained to combat.

Rhino Guardians in training examining Rhino tracks on a recent tracking expedition

Thanks to our guests and their generous support, The Londolozi Ripple Fund provides funding for these projects and others like them that focus on the preservation of African wildlife and the environment.

In 2022, The Londolozi Ripple Fund provided immense support to the work of Tracker Academy and the Rhino Guardians initiatives – for which we are deeply grateful.

The Tracker Academy and the Rhino Guardians project are examples of the kind of positive impact that can be achieved through community-based conservation efforts. By training people in skills such as tracking, anti-poaching, and environmental monitoring, these projects empower local communities to take an active role in preserving their natural heritage. The ripple effect of these initiatives extends far beyond the immediate conservation efforts, providing opportunities for employment, education, and community development.

The reality is that endangered species and their continued protection is an around-the-clock, 365-day-a-year effort. It is expensive, and it takes boots on the ground! We are extremely proud to partner with Tracker Academy to ensure that for generations to come, these animals will live a protected life, and for those of you who want to join the fight please contact Alex van den Heever at the Tracker Academy to see where you can create a difference alex@nns.co.za.

This post would not be complete without acknowledging Gaynor Rupert for her vision, energy, and grace in making Tracker Academy a reality in the first place. Inkomu, Mrs. Rupert! You have made a material difference to the protection of wild animals and wild places.

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