Battling ruthless poachers with a camera to help save iconic wildlife
A Chichester-trained photojournalism student is a foot soldier in the fight against animal poaching.
Currently working with a South-Africa-based organisation fighting animal cruelty, German-born Angie Raab studies photojournalism long distance with the online College of Media and Publishing (CMP), based in Chichester since 2003.
Angie originally arranged a month’s visit to South Africa in 2014, with the aim of boosting her photojournalism skills.
Once there, she met people from anti-poaching initiative Boots on the Ground and decided to get involved.
She said: “I became intrigued and realised that no-one had been telling their stories. I felt that I could do more than just listen.
“Three months later, I started working on a photographic piece about these men and women, about the last barrier between the merciless poachers and the wildlife.”
Today, Angie’s project is being turned into a documentary.
She said: “I now have stunning footage of heroes who are fighting on the frontline of the war on wildlife in Africa. And it is a war here.
“Rhino, lions, leopards and elephants are getting ruthlessly killed by poaching syndicates, for endless profit.”
Angie’s work has also taken her to Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mali and Rwanda: “I enrolled on this course to further my photojournalism skills but I am mostly somewhere in the bush, joining anti-poaching units, which leaves me without any connectivity. At least my phone is working in the bush.”
Today, her experiences are being incorporated into her course assignments.
“At the moment, I am living the story I am telling, working around the course, mostly downloading the relevant parts and taking them with me on a tablet or my phone.”
Angie plans to remain in South Africa after she has finished the documentary.
Her story will have a happy ending because she plans to marry Lo, who she met while she was filming his anti-poaching unit in action.
She said: “At first he was not happy having a camera team around, but then he warmed up and we started talking - never stopped!”
CMP principal Cleland Thom said: “Angie shows how online learning enables you to study flexibly, wherever you are. We sometimes don’t hear from her for a while. But then she pops up again from another part of Africa.
“We’re looking forward to seeing some amazing photos as part of her coursework.”
Photojournalist Angie Raab’s documentary ‘Boots on the Ground’ is currently post-production.
Its gives a voice to an African organisation which provides experienced teams of rangers, trackers, monitors and other professionals to form a critical front-line defence against wildlife crime.
Boots on the Ground’s anti-poaching units form an essential component of ‘Stop Poaching Now’, an operation run by the International Rhino Foundation.
The organisation has also helped train and equip rhino rangers in poaching hotspots and provided support to anti-poaching teams by tracking and monitoring hundreds of rhinos.
Angie said: “Anti-poaching teams in general are either on foot or car-based. Their primary objective is to keep the animals on the reserve or national park section they are responsible for.”
Angie said the African animals most in danger of being poached are rhino and elephant.
She said: “Rhino horn is the single most expensive commodity on earth, and elephants [are being poached] for their ivory.”
Anti-poaching teams include foot patrols, which usually cover a certain section and carry out ‘fence checks’ and track animals.
“Then there are dog-handler teams, who are responsible for sniffing out rhino horn, ivory and weapons on road blocks and car checks or track poachers or people illegally on the reserve.”
Angie said some places have Fast Reaction units, on call if there is an intrusion: “They also patrol roads and the outer fence lines.”
Today, her team may become a fully operating not-for-profit organisation (NPO) in the second half of the year. Meanwhile, it is focusing on finishing both the documentary and a campaign to raise awareness.
She said: “We submitted for non-profit status, as the teams and people we worked with would like to see us continue to raise awareness for the anti-poaching efforts and be a voice for the rangers.
“We are planning on offering training, as well as supporting selected projects through raising awareness and donations to keep them going, including anti-poaching projects, as well as projects like the gorilla doctors who need support with their everyday expenses.”
For more information, visit www.bootsontheground.com.
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