The Wildlife Ranger Challenge: Supporting Conservation During COVID-19

On Oct. 3 more than 50 ranger teams from across Africa will run 21 KM to support conservation efforts. Here’s how you can help—even if you aren’t a runner. 

By Brad Fitzpatrick

COVID-19 has impacted African tourism and hunting, which has decimated anti-poaching teams and threatens the work of conservationists worldwide.

COVID-19 has put a halt to tourism in Africa, and as a result poaching has increased. Without the necessary funds to maintain anti-poaching forces, many ranger units have been forced to limit patrols or shut down their anti-poaching efforts altogether. Reduced patrols allow poachers unfettered access to parks, reserves and other wildlife strongholds, and that has resulted in an unprecedented spike in illegal hunting in some of the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems.

One of the areas at risk for increased poaching is Mozambique’s Coutada 11. Coutada 11 was virtually devoid of wildlife following the Mozambican Civil War, but since that time hunter’s dollars have helped sustain habitat and increase wildlife populations. Cape buffalo populations in Coutada 11 have risen from 1,200 in the years following the war to over 25,000 animals. Sable antelope populations increased from just 44 animals to over 3,000 and zebra numbers increased from 5 to over 2,500.

This increase in wildlife numbers would never have been possible without donations from hunters, as well as the efforts of Coutada 11’s Zambeze Delta Anti-Poaching Unit. These rangers are charged with the dangerous task of rounding up and arresting poachers, and they do so by tracking on foot, from the air using a helicopter and on motorbikes as part of a quick reaction force.

Read the story of “24 Lions” in Sportsmen’s Monthly!

The efforts of the Zambeze Delta Anti-Poaching Unit have paid off. In 2018, the Cabela Family Foundation and the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance joined forces to reintroduce lions to the delta for the first time since the end of Mozambique’s civil war. That project, known as 24 Lions, was a major success, and today there are more than 50 lions roaming free in Coutada 11’s millions of acres.

The lack of tourism and the funding it generates has caused a budget shortfall in Coutada 11 as it has across the whole African continent where much of the anti-poaching efforts depend on money generated by tourists and hunters. For that reason, Coutada 11 has fielded a team of rangers to take place in the Wildlife Ranger Challenge, a 21K (13 mile) race that will happen on Oct. 3, 2020. The money generated by this race will go directly to funding rangers in the Zambeze Delta so that they can continue their vital anti-poaching efforts. What’s more, the Tusk Trust will match 25% of every donation, ensuring that your dollars go farther to help protect African wildlife.

To learn more or donate to Coutada 11’s ranger team visit

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research.  Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: OnlineFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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