50 candidates have been pre-selected from 228 applicants to participate in the second, eco-guard training programme in Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Congo.
All are members of local communities, some are former poachers. The recruitment and training of additional eco guards is designed to bolster the Odzala law enforcement unit and its ongoing efforts to prevent poaching, predominantly of elephants, and the bourgeoning illegal trade in bushmeat, plus arrest the perpetrators of the crimes.
The 50 men were all required to undergo a punishing fitness test that involved pushups, sit-ups, running 15 kilometres with a 20kg pack, and a reading and writing assessment. A one week on-site selection will follow after which the final group will be chosen for the gruelling six-week training programme led jointly by Congolese Government trainers and African Parks’ law enforcement manager, Kurt Steiner. The programme covers: physical training, drills, musketry, bush tactics, navigation, boat-training, swimming and legal training. It also includes medical training which will benefit the villagers in the communities where they live.
Last year 45 candidates completed the first eco-guard course at Odzala, 28 of whom were employed as fully-fledged eco-guards and deployed in the field, and 17 as eco-monitors for monitoring activities and research.