Can you imagine living in a rural community next to a wildlife reserve and growing up with a fear of dangerous animals? That’s the reality for many and the reason why the Malilangwe Neighbour Outreach Programme has several initiatives in place to offer development to the communities and bring awareness to conservation.
The Cadet Ranger Programme is one of these initiatives, and it is designed and instructed by the Malilangwe scouts. The scouts act as mentors to the cadets and pass on a diverse range of skills and wisdom to the young recruits. The cadets are selected from surrounding community schools, and are boys aged 16 to 19 years old.
The cadets are accommodated in purpose-built dormitories. Duties shared amongst them include cleaning, washing and cooking meals. Some of the cadets have never slept in proper beds, used flush toilets or brushed their teeth with a toothbrush before. They learn about leadership and personal development, nutrition, health and exercise, conservation, bushcraft, flora and fauna, first aid, and living a healthy lifestyle.
Scout Patrick teaching one of cadets about wildlife encounters.
This month 15 cadets of 2020’s intake spent another two weeks with us, in their school holidays. Some of the Singita Pamushana guides took them out on game drives to show them the wildlife. They saw so much including several white rhinos, and even a black rhino too – and learnt all about them and the threats rhinos face.
They had a fantastic experience with a breeding herd of elephants. The elephant mothers came right up to the vehicle, and one bold little calf gave them a curios investigation. Many of the cadets only knew elephants as devastating crop raiding beasts, or aggressive and dangerous threats when travelling through other areas where elephants have a history of being persecuted. On this game drive they were taught that elephants aren’t always aggressive and can be peaceful animals when regarded with respect and knowledge. They spent over 30 minutes in the company of elephants, learning all about them and came away with a very different perception.
Cadet meets his first breeding herd of elephants, and a little calf raises its trunk in a gesture of greeting and sniffing.
Story by Alex Naert & Jenny Hishin, photos by Alex Naert.