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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.

©  Pete Oxford /African Parks
© Pete Oxford /African Parks

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.

© Zander/ African Parks
© Zander/ African Parks
© Zander/ African Parks
© Zander/ African Parks

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.

© Zander/ African Parks
© Zander/ African Parks
© Zander/ African Parks
© Zander/ African Parks
© Zander/ African Parks
© Zander/ African Parks

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.

© Zander/ African Parks
© Zander/ African Parks
Africa Geographic Travel
African Parks

African Parks is a non-profit organisation that takes on total responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments, wildlife organisations and local communities. We operate thirteen national parks in nine countries: Rwanda, Zambia, Mozambique, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Malawi and Benin. Please see www.african-parks.org or visit our Facebook page for more information.