Animal Law Week screening of the 13-minute NatGeo documentary about all-female, plant-based ranger teams battling the illegal hunting of elephants in Zimbabwe. A panel discussion will follow including the film's director, an Akashinga ranger, and the founder of the organization.
At this event we will be screening the 13-minute documentary AKASHINGA: The Brave Ones about all-female, plant-based ranger teams battling the illegal hunting of elephants in Zimbabwe. The film was Executive Produced by three-time Academy Award winner James Cameron for National Geographic.
After the screening we will host a panel discussion including the film’s Director, Maria Wilhelm, Akashinga Ranger, Nyaradzo Hoto, and International Anti-Poaching Foundation CEO, Damien Mander.
With many of Africa’s key species, including elephants and rhinoceroses, reaching levels near extinction, Akashinga is a radical, new, and highly effective weapon against poaching. Founded by former Australian special forces soldier, Damien Mander, the all-female team of rangers, drawn from the abused and marginalized, is revolutionizing the way animals are protected and communities are empowered – transforming the lives of the rangers in the process. Akashinga’s innovative approach to conservation calls for community buy-in rather than full-on armed assault against poachers. If a community understands the economic benefits of preserving animals, then it will eliminate poaching without an armed struggle.
Maria Wilhelm, Director and Producer
Maria Wilhelm has executive produced the earth-conscious documentaries The Game Changers for Netflix and the Emmy-winning climate change series Years of Living Dangerously for Showtime and National Geographic, along with James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction for AMC and other productions in tandem with James Cameron. She runs Earthship, focused on advocacy media, the Avatar Alliance Foundation and CAMERON Companies. Upcoming productions with National Geographic include Planet of the Whales and Mission OceanX. Wilhelm is a trustee of the African Wildlife Foundation and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a former board member of The Explorers Club.
Nyaradzo Hoto, Akashinga Ranger
My name is Nyaradzo Auxillia Hoto. I am 28 years old with an 8-year-old daughter named Tariro. I grew up in Huyo Village, Nyamakate, located in Zimbabwe’s mighty Zambezi Valley. Growing up, I had eight siblings and our family was very poor. Even though I was very bright at school, my parents did not have enough money for me to continue my education and I was forced to drop out. Out of desperation I got married at the early age of 20 — there was no other option for me to survive.
Nobody would wish to be in the marriage that became my life. My husband was a violent and abusive man that preyed on my vulnerabilities. He was not supportive, he did not allow me to fulfill my dreams, and he exploited everything about me for his own advantage. I became a slave for his family and was forced into hard labor with nothing in return. In 2014, I built up the courage to divorce my husband and leave this life of abuse. It was a difficult decision, and back home, my beloved father had passed away, so that meant I would have to then take over the role of looking after my family of eight. To sustain a daily living for my family, I did gardening and sold tomatoes while running the household in every spare moment I had.
In 2017, an opportunity came about to join the newly formed Akashinga program as a ranger. As a woman, I was focused on using Akashinga as a tool to fight my battle toward a better life. Although it was tough, I passed selection and became a ranger. I worked hard and saved my money, and after one year I bought a block of land in our community. I went on to get my driver’s license, a big deal for women in rural Africa, and I am now independent and can stand on my own two feet. I send my child to school and even support my two young brothers to complete the education I once hoped for.
My job and duty as a ranger have totally transformed my life. I could have never imagined the braveness in me and I now have a strong passion and love for animals and nature. Akashinga is also helping me build up the future of the wildlife conservation sector. Now I am part time at university, undertaking a bachelor’s degree in science, wildlife, ecology ,and conservation. After my studies, I dream to be a world leader in wildlife conservation.
I am strong today because I have been weak; I am fearless today because I have been afraid.
Damien Mander, Environmentalist; Founder and CEO, International Anti-Poaching Foundation
Damien Mander is an Iraq war veteran who served as a naval clearance diver and special operations sniper for the Australian Defence Force. In 2009 while traveling through Africa, he was inspired by the work of rangers and the plight of wildlife. Liquidating his life savings, he established the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) to be the last line of defense for nature. Over the past decade the IAPF has scaled to train and support rangers who now help protect over 10 million acres of African wilderness.
In 2017, Mander founded “Akashinga – Nature Protected by Women,” an IAPF program that already has grown to over 170 employees – becoming the only group of nature reserves in the world to be protected by women. Their goal is to employ 1,000 women by 2025, protecting a network of 20 nature reserves, all managed by the IAPF.
Mander is the winner of the 2019 Winsome Constance Kindness Gold Medal, a prestigious international recognition for services to animals and humanity. Past recipients include Sir David Attenborough and Dr. Jane Goodall. Mander also was featured in the 2019 James Cameron documentary “The Game Changers.”
Damien’s TEDx talk at the Sydney Opera House has been viewed over 7 million times and translated into 27 languages. He has spoken at the United Nations, was featured in June 2019’s National Geographic magazine, has appeared three times on “60 Minutes” and recently was recognized by the Dutch government as a Gender Champion for 2019.