The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

"Biodiversity Management in Southern Africa in Conflict Areas."

by Ranger Adam

Text of a Zoom Lecture given the the Eastern Cape branch (SAMHSEC) on April 11,2022. Original talk available in the Zoom library on this website

Dedicated to the Memories, of Juliet, my Mother, Mentor, and Friend who made me everything I am Today, and the Late Wayne Lotter, my Colleague, and Friend, who was Assassinated in Tanzania, because he had become too prominent in countering Poaching.

Ziziphus mucronata , uMpahafa, uMlahankosi, Blinkblaar-wag-n-bietjie, Buffalo thorn

In Zulu Culture they have a saying about the Mphafa tree..

As you can see it has a curved backward thorn and a straight pointing forward thorn,.The saying in Zulu is “Umuntu akakwazi ukuyithola indla yakho eya lapho uya khona uma ungazi ukuthi uvelaphi”; in English “One cannot find your path to where you are going to if you do not know where you have come from”

Africa map
A Map Showing the Countries under discussion Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola

I worked mainly in the Suldo-Save region in the mid 1970’s Most of their National Parks are currently run by Foundations like Peace Parks, and Carr Foundations, which are mainly in the SE of the country, like the Limpopo National Park,which joins Kruger Park and is 89000 SqKms, and Zinave National Parks 87000Ha, Gorongosa 3770 Sq Kms. is in the Central Region. Just to give you some perspective Kruger is 19,485 Sq.Kms. All which have been have been impacted by the various wars.
I worked in Virunga National Park 1000 Sq Kms and for me is the most heavily impacted National Park in Africa. To date they are losing around 100 Rangers per year to poachers, and various militia groups. The chief impacts to the Park are habitat destruction through refugee camps, cutting down of vegetation for firewood, illegal logging, and the killing and capture of wildlife like gorillas, and chimpanzees, and the murder of their rangers.
As an example of the challenges we face,some time back I entered Botswana through a Namibian Border Post, so my passport was not stamped.On my return I was arrested as an illegal immigrant and put in jail for a week.

Angolan National Parks

Angolan Parks
Angola has nine National Parks, and four Provincial, and Integral Parks
The National Parks are
  1. Maiombe NP 2074 SqKms.
  2. Kissama NP. 9227 SqKms.
  3. Cangandala 637 SqKms.
  4. Cameia NP 14688 SqKms.
  5. Iona NP. 15196 SqKms.
  6. Bicuar NP. 6748 SqKms,
  7. Mupa NP. 6039 SqKms.
  8. Luengue-Luiana – Mavinga two parks contiguous 93500 SqKms.
  9. Luando 9930 SqKms.

So you can compare the aboveto Kruger which is 19485 SqKm.

Maiombe National Park,
in the far North in Cabinda and is Tropical Rain Forest, compared to Iona National Park in the far South which is Semi-Desert. Both were impacted by the war to a lesser to greater degree.
Cagandala National Park
is the home of the giant sable that together with Luando (just south of it), Cagandala forms the area of Project Giant Sable run by the Kissama Foundation. Their target is to increase their population giant sable to two hundred in twenty years.
Giant sable
Giant Sable was thought to be extinct during the War, only a few survived as the Local Tribe revered them as a deity.
Kissama National Park,
72 Kms S.of Luanda where I spent fourteen years as Director. Kissama has its Northern boundary the Kwanza River, the largest river in Angola. At its mouth extensive tidal woodlands and further inland extensive wetlands. Manatee occurs, as well as populations of aquatic species. In fact Bull Sharks have been recorded in this river many kilometers upstream.
Foot, vehicle, boat, and helicopter patrols are conducted into the Park, however due to extensive infracture damage caused by the war road travel is a challenge. The use of Mi 17 helicopters from the Angolan Airforce, enables patrols in the Park which take hours, not days. The apprehension of the first Ivory poacher in Angola in 30 years happened on one of these joint patrols. One of the positive aspects of having a Military Base in the Park is that we are able to conduct joint patrols, using their equipment like Helicopters.
Ivory poacher
Catching poachers.
Kissama National Park
Kissama National Park overlooking the nearest Caua River, and Kwanza river juncture, and the village of Calumbo in the distance.
Cameia National Park
situated near the border with Zambia. The chief means of access was the Benguela Railway line, that was rendered inoperative during the war. Because of this the Park was isolated leading it to become just a Paper Park as generally happened to most of the Parks.
Iona National Park
located in the South, on the Namibian Border and is semi-desert. During the war it was on numerous occasions a battle field, and in certain areas there are still mainly anti-personnel mines.
Walwichia Plant
The rare Walwichia Plant in Iona National Park
Mupa National Park.
This is located in the SW. Angola not far from Lubango, originally proclaimed by the Portuguese in the 1950’s to protect the Angolan Giraffe ( Giraffe Camelopardalis angolensis) which because of the War became extinct in that area, With Mupa it became a refugee camp, and to this day no longer functions as a National Park.
Luengue-Luiana-Mavinga NP
I was in Jamba on 04-04-2019 to celebrate the end of the Angolan War on 04-04-2002, so this May in 2022 the war would have ended for twenty years. In Jamba, the old UNITA Head Quarters, where I had my Head Quarters there is still much evidence of the war, with unserviceable T54/55 Tanks, and Buffel troop carrier with 32Bn markings on it, now used to dry maize, some old SADF prefabs being used as homes by the local population. I even found an old Claymore mine still attached to a tree a few Kms. from Jamba not that long ago. Most of the anti-tank mines have been lifted by HALO Foundation on the main tracks in the SE. of the Park, leaving an unknown number of anti-personnel mines in the area.
Crossing rivers
Because of Bridges being blown up, having to cross a Chana in the rainy season in Luiengue- Luiana National Park.
Mavinga National Park.Is to the North of LLNP but is contiguous with it.
The Northern boundary of the Park lays the town of Cuito Cuanavale, here a Monument has been erected by the North Koreans to celebrate the Battle. All types of Land Mines remain in large numbers, chiefly in the Tampa Triangle, and Lomba areas. The HALO Foundation mine removal has its Head-Quarters for this project here.
 Lomba River in Mavinga National Park
Lomba River in Mavinga National Park.
Luando Integral Park.
This is just south of the Cagandala NP.this home to the Giant Sable whose populations were decimated by the war, , and were thought to be extinct. Due to the fact that the local tribe, saw this animal as a deity so they were not all killed for food.
Cons– Pros.
  • Loss of life, Human and Other. During the War years many thousands of Angolans, and those people from other countries died, as well as animals wild, and domestic.
  • Poaching of Wildlife to fund the War effort. Elephants and rhinos were nearly wiped out in the area around Jamba, to fund UNITA’s war effort.
  • The killing of game for bush meat to feed the troops happened in all National Parks in Angola. It was very evident in Kissama, where the entire population of large game animals were wiped out; helicopters armed with machine guns were employed in this operation for this purpose
  • Illegal logging of hard-woods was carried out to fund UNITA’s war effort. The syndicates to illegally chop down Hardwoods like African Rosewood ( Guibourtia colesperma) still continue even after the war.
    Illegal logging
    Illegal Logging
  • The destruction of Infrastructure like bridges train lines, schools, and hospitals. This has caused many of the Parks to become isolated, to date many are still Paper Parks, with no way to restore their infrastructure. A major problem to this day is that to date the destruction of schools, generations of young Angolan people remain illiterate, and innumerate and with little hope for a better future many turn to wildlife crime to make some sort of living.
  • Disruption of Traditional Structures. During the Civil War in Angola, and probably other countries, traditional regularity controls over areas by Village Chiefs by and largely ceased to exist. This resulted in the uncontrolled harvesting of natural resources like firewood, water, and wild animals for food. Uncontrolled fires were lit, resulting in significant habitat degradation.
    Traditional structures
    Traditional government structures provided by Village Chiefs.
  • Refugees and Displaced persons. As discussed in the above point, large scale movement of people from their homes into neighbouring countries (Refugee) as refugees or move to another part of their country as displaced persons. One of the problems with refugees is that they take their weapons to the countries they move into, leading in the medium to long term their use for criminal activities. Displaced people move from their tradition villages to safer areas an example of this in Angola is Luanda, or areas in close proximity with little or no control over them settling on beaches like Caba Ledo resulting in overexploitation of the natural resources there, over fishing and poaching in Parks like Kissama NP., which has a huge negative impact on the area.
    Poacher weapons
    Collection of weapons taken from poachers over a period of one year.
  • Arming of Local Populations. When I first started working in Kissama the Civil War was still ongoing, and the local people were part of Militia armed with predominantly AK/AKM 47’s, but also H&K G3 amongst others. At the end of the war, the Angolan Government did a reasonably good job, and,through the Local Traditional Structures that had survived,people handed in their weapons, but some did not, using them for criminal activities like commercial bush-meat and ivory poaching.
  • Military Bases especially those in Protected Areas. An example of this is the Bragada do Commandos in Caba Ledo. In my experience this can be both negative, and positive. A very good proportion in my experience in Kissama of the poaching problems was by troops either deserters or on absent without leave using their military equipment to conduct their illegal activities. Even criminal syndicates within the unit using military transport to transport their contraband, these are not subjected to our routine searches,
  • However as mentioned above there are also positive aspects. Landmines and unspent Ordinance. Normal Anti-Tank mines have to a large degree been lifted by the HALO Foundation in the South East of Angola on the main tracks; however the very large Mine Fields in the Tampo Triangle and Lomba River where many mines still exist, and will remain there for years to come. During my Anti-Poaching Patrols I am often off those tracks, leading to much stress. HALO has its chief Head Quarters for the Region at Cuito Cuanavale where they are doing good work with the locals not only in removing landmines and unspent ordinance but in assisting with things like prosthesis, and living with landmines education. One of the positive spinoffs for Angola was visits by the British Royal Family to the area. Which caused much public exposure for Angola?
    Mined areas
    Mined areas.
  • Farming activities inside National Parks. Thousands of hectares of cotton were farmed illegally especially in South of Kissama National Park, along the Longa River, together with domestic herds of cattle, goats etc. All this stopped as a result of the War.
  • Habitat Regeneration. Although the game species were all but wiped out, this was left largely intact, Allowing it to regenerate especially without grazing, and browsing pressure from Game Animals making it perfect for game reintroductions, like Operation Noah’s Arc in 2000-2001 where through cooperation of the Angolan Military, and the Kissama Foundation, the largest air translocation of wildlife, in its time with a variety of game animals like elephants and giraffe were flown from South Africa, and Botswana to the Air Force Base in Caba Ledo, then moved the remaining few Kms. In their containers, on low-beds into the Special Conservation Area further into the Park. During my time of watch as Park Director the elephants increased from 35 to over 100, and the giraffe from 4 to 68, just as an example.
    Operation Noah's Arc
    Restocking parks via Operation Noah's Arc
  • Use of Military Veterans as Field Rangers. After the War the Military was down sized, so these milary veterans were available to be recruited as experienced field operators, not someone that was fresh out of a college,but people with years of experienced in Coin Warfare making them ideally suited to work in things like Anti-Poaching Operations, many of my staff, mature people, that knew how to work in the bush, often working under difficult conditions.
    Military Veterans as Field Rangers
    Military Veterans as Field Rangers
  • Hope for the Future. Now that the war had ended, and peace has returned allowing young people to now be educated, and game return to their historical homes, there is hope for the futuregame conservationin Angola.

Once The Guns have become Silent, Let’s Give Peace a Chance.

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