What is a mounted anti-poaching unit?
An addition of horses to an anti-poaching team. Much like dogs have been brought into the poaching crisis for their specific skill set, horses are becoming a useful tool for anti-poaching units as well. Many active units are incorporating horses into their arsenal of tools to fight poaching
Why are mounted units important?
Rangers on horseback can travel faster than foot patrols, yet more silently and with less ecological impact than a vehicle patrol. Equally, horses can travel the exact pathways of rhino, elephant and other game where vehicles can meet heavy challenges in rough or steep terrain. Horses are the original all-terrain vehicle. They also have a unique quality to bridge local communities to the cause of endangered wildlife. Horses are a beacon to people, especially children. The hope is to also use horses to do community outreach with local communities. The horses are an easy “talking point” that naturally make people want to come up and ask questions. On the flip side they can also be very intimidating to poachers…being chased down by a 1,000 pound animal that is much faster than a human commands a certain kind of fear/respect that may make them think twice.
Another aspect is supplying the average person that may not know much about the poaching crisis a TANGIBLE link that makes the crisis come into their field of vision!
How are they different from other patrols?
Along with everything listed above, horses also give the ranger a higher field of vision (over tall savannah grasses, for example) and also allow rangers to get much closer to wildlife than in a vehicle or even on foot. The wildlife reacts to mounted rangers as they would a new/interesting animal more with curiosity as opposed to fear. They may well be safer in comparison to foot patrols as well since a horse can outrun most dangerous wildlife while a ranger on foot must be extra diligent since they can’t get away as fast.
What GCF is doing with mounted units?
GCF is currently responsible for 95% of the funding towards our flagship 2 horse unit in the Eastern Cape, inclusive of purchasing horses for the unit. The unit has been running for one year and rangers absolutely love the added security the horses bring to their job. GCF has also funded gear (helmets, saddles, bridles) to various mounted units in the Kwazulu-Natal area in the last year. With a lifetime equestrienne on our board of directors we are also able to supply horse and ranger horsemanship training to units in the field as the need arises.
How can you help?
Mounted units are increasing in popularity in the poaching crisis and GCF would like to remain a solid resource for these fledgling units to ask for help with specialized horse gear and training. Tack is extremely expensive in South Africa and shipping from US to South Africa is exorbitant so buying some things (like saddles) in South Africa is unavoidable.
*Providing financial support for important gear (mainly, saddles) is the critical need at this time
*The easiest way to help is to donate specifically to the “Mounted Anti Poaching Units” under our donations page.
*GCF may put out a call for gently used horse tack or to purchase helmets (we use a very specific type/kind for field purposes so donated helmets won’t work). Follow us to see when/how you may help
* Follow and share, on social media, what GCF is doing with these unique units