“The rangers we train are uber fit when we’ve finished with them, so they can outrun the poachers,” says Splash Projects Project Manager Pete Simmons, who, for each of the last five years has visited Africa to train conservation rangers stopping poachers from killing the continent’s endangered wild animals.
This April to June, Pete, a former British Army Warrant Officer with Commando Forces, will be in Zambia training rangers at a national park who work with Conservation South Luangwa. Here, poachers are a threat to “every animal you can think of apart from rhinos, because they’ve been poached to extinction in this area,” says Pete, who lives in Devon.
Over the years, as part of a team of three, Pete has trained hundreds of rangers in Zambia and the Congo with the Endangered Species Protection Agency. A 23-year-long career with the military, including as a jungle warfare instructor, means he is ideally placed to train up to 100 rangers at a time, aged between 17 and 65, in specialised skills including navigation, weapon handling, survival and bush craft, communications and tracking – training which is vital in the war against poachers.
“It’s invaluable,” he explains. “The rangers stay in their job for life, so the skills we give them makes them far more effective and safer.
“It’s so rewarding to see how much they like learning and how vital the skills are to them; they learn how to live in the field, how to shoot straight, while becoming more stealthy and more methodical in their approach. We coach them in physical training as well because fitness and endurance are hugely important for their work.”
He adds: “It’s great to be able to pass on your knowledge and then hear about how it’s directly helped in the war against poaching.”
Pete will join Splash Projects upon his return this summer.