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The Brave Ones

Empowering community and save wildlife

This is Petronella Chigumbura. She takes part in a stealth and concealment training in the Phundundu Wildlife Park, Zimbabwe. Petronella is just one of the members of an all-female anti-poaching force called Akashinga, or ‘The Brave Ones’. The women, dressed in green camouflage, crouch by the edge of the Zambezi River daily to protect one of the world's largest elephant populations.

Akashinga was established and trained by Australian Damien Mander, a former military sniper and founder of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation. He started recruiting female rangers in 2017.

Most of them have disadvantaged backgrounds; some are single mothers, victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. Damien Mander trained them, empowered, offered jobs and put into positions of power in the community to save wildlife.

This year, the world could learn more about Akashinga. The photo Petronella Chigumbura, made by Brent Stirton, won the 2019 World Press Photo Award in the Environment category. Brent Stirton, a special correspondent for Getty Images and a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine as well as other international titles and was awarded. He specializes in documentary work at the intersection of man and the environment. He also works regularly for Human Rights Watch and with the Environment Investigation Agency and LAGA as well as the Gates and Clinton Foundation and various NGO's.

What’s really amazing is just how much we all have in common. Yes, there are many different manifestations of that, but we are all commonly human. The same variables apply no matter who you are, what you look like, what your gender is or what your race is. And that always amazes me. How we are all lacking compassion when actually we are so similar. So I guess my job is to continue to comment on that. See if I can get that right. Its a marathon, not a sprint. 

Brent Stirton, 'The World Over', Interview Magazine, 2012.


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