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Akashinga: a documentary about the brave women protecting our wildlife

Wildlife conservation is something that I have heard in passing or in conversation a number of times. The idea of it is clear, but never having been in those communities where it is a reality there is, on my part, a feeling of detachment. That is until I saw a tweet on my timeline about a documentary Executive Produced James Cameron called Akashinga.

I am sure there among you those who were aware of this Female only Anti-Poaching Unit. Their story is one that I have found fascinating. The more I looked into them the more I admired this unit.

How did it start?

Akashinga is an arm of the non-profit International Anti-Poaching Foundation. They operate in the Phundundu Wildlife Area, a 298 square kilometre area which used to be a trophy hunting patch in the Zambezi Valley.

The unit was founded in 2017 by Damien Mander who is a former member of the Australian Defense Force. After some time training male rangers, he found that the women were better suited to the task;

“He (Mander) found they were less susceptible to bribery from poachers and more adept at de-escalating potentially violent situations. He also knew that research shows working women in developing countries invest 90 per cent of their income in their families, compared with 35 per cent for men.  In this regard, the rangers demonstrate a key conservation principle: Wildlife is worth more to the community alive than it is dead at the hands of poachers.” 

National Geographic

The women that make up this unit come from different backgrounds. They all have harrowing stories to tell about their lives. But it is because of that that they are apart of this team. Mander’s reasoning is that because they have suffered they are the ones who are best positioned to protect.

Their training is gruelling and they have to endure military levels of conditioning in order to be able to operate. They must endure high levels of activity while drenched, cold, hungry and tired.

“We thought we were putting the women through hell. But it turns out, they’ve already been through it.”

Damien Mander

The documentary

The documentary was directed by Maria Wilhelm. She previously worked on The Game Changers and the Emmy-winning climate change series “Years of Living Dangerously“.

It has a short runtime so I need not drop any more spoilers. It is a powerful film that has shown me that there is important work being done to protect our natural resources and the stories of these incredible women are better expressed in their own words. The documentary is available to stream on:

National Geographic Films

National Geographic’s YouTube page

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