Ep 32: Dr. Timothy Wittig –  Intelligence, terrorist finance, and ending illegal wildlife trade.

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In this episode, I’m talking with Dr. Timothy Wittig. Tim is a conservationist, professor, and former defense intelligence analyst. He is a research fellow at Oxford University (Oxford Martin School), an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, and Head of Intelligence for both the Royal Foundation’s United for Wildlife Taskforces and the wildlife investigations charity Focused Conservation.

In this conversation, we dive into Tim’s early days growing up around nature in the outskirts of DC, his work that helped redefined the way agencies look at terrorist financing, and how his analysis during his time in Africa lead him into conservation. We talk about the first US National Strategy on Wildlife Trafficking, the early days of the United for Wildlife Taskforces, and the work happening at Focused Conservation to bring wildlife traffickers to justice. So please, enjoy this wide-ranging, in-depth conversation with Tim.

Website: timothywittig.co
Instagram: @unitedforwildlife
Facebook: @FocusedConservation
Twitter: @focusedconserve
LinkedIn: @Timothy Wittig

Ep 31: Leitah Mkhabela – The Black Mambas, and the life of a female anti-poaching ranger.

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In this episode, I’m talking with Leitah Mkhabela. Leitah is a Supervisor and Media Officer for the Black Mambas. Founded in 2013 by Craig Spencer of Transfrontier Africa, the Black Mambas are South Africa’s first all female anti-poaching unit. They operate on the front lines of the Balule coalition of private game reserves on the western border of Kruger National Park. Leitah started her career as a Black Mamba in 2014. In 2020, she received a Ranger of the Year award by The International Paradise Foundation in China.

In this conversation, we talk about Leitah’s blossoming love for wildlife as a teen, her decision to become a ranger for the Black Mambas, and the challenges she faced from society as a woman going into this field. Leitah dives into her growth as a ranger, the dangers rangers face in the field, and the reasons the Black Mambas patrol in the bush unarmed. We go into depth on the role of a ranger, community engagement, and advice for women in conservation. We even talk about our dear friend, Leitah’s cousin, the late Anton Mzimba of the Timbavati—how he motivated Leitah and what it means to pick up the torch and continue his work.

Website: transfrontierafrica/the-black-mambas
Instagram: @theblackmambas
Facebook: @blackmambasapu
Twitter: @blackmambasapu
LinkedIn: @Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit

Ep 30: Charlie Mayhew, MBE – Founding Tusk, Wildlife Ranger Challenge, and Massive Impact.

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In this episode, I’m talking with Charlie Mayhew, MBE. Charlie is the Co-Founder and CEO of Tusk Trust. Their mission is to amplify the impact of progressive conservation initiatives across Africa. Charlie was educated at Wellington College, worked as a Lloyd’s Marine Insurance Broker while moonlighting as a DJ, is a Fellow of The Royal Geographical Society, and was awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by Her Majesty The Queen. In 1990 he co-founded the charity, Tusk Trust, and under his stewardship it has since grown into a highly reputable and efficient UK conservation charity.

In this conversation we dive into Charlie’s path into conservation, including a 1985 expedition he led across Africa, and the film he co-produced which led to the foundations of Tusk. We take a winding path through all of the various organizations Tusk supports across Africa, dig into their ethos, and talk about the power of ambassadors including Tusk’s Royal Patron, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. And of course we explore the importance of rangers, and the amazing support for them through Tusk’s Wildlife Ranger Challenge and the Tusk Awards. Charlie has a captivating life story, and with over £100m raised since its inception, Tusk has had and continues to have massive impact on conservation and community development programs.

Website: tusk.org
Instagram: @charlie_mayhew | @tusk_org
Facebook: @tusk.org
Twitter: @MayhewCharlie | @tusk_org
LinkedIn: @Charlie Mayhew, MBE | @Tusk

Ep 29: Nick Ahlers – TRAFFIC: Ensuring the trade of wildlife is not a threat to nature.

In this episode, I’m talking with Nick Ahlers. Over the last 20 years, Nick has managed a wide variety of sustainable development projects across Southern Africa. He joined TRAFFIC nearly 10 years ago and has held many positions there along with his most recent promotion to Director of Development. TRAFFIC’s mission is to ensure that the trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. Its evidence-based approaches provide guidance and tailored technical expertise to a range of stakeholders across governments, specialized law enforcement, donors, policymakers, private sector companies, academia and beyond. Nick is based in South Africa and holds degrees in International Development Studies, Environmental Studies, African Studies with a focus on Medical Anthropology, and a MSc in Environment and Development from the London School of Economics.

In this conversation, we dig into Nick’s early curiosity and passion for the environment, his path into conservation which took him from Maine to South Africa, and how his career brought him to TRAFFIC. We dive into TRAFFIC as an organization and the work being done there. We go deep into the rhino horn trade and talk through the ramifications of legalizing it. We also talk about findings from prisoner interviews in relation to illegal wildlife trade. Nick has a wonderful ability to turn data and research into understandable concepts.

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Website: traffic.org
Instagram: @traffic_wltrade
Facebook: @trafficnetwork
Twitter: @TRAFFIC_WLTrade
LinkedIn: @TRAFFIC International

Ep 28: Damien Mander – IAPF, Akashinga, and LEAD Ranger: Finding purpose after the military.

In this episode, I’m talking with Damien Mander. Damien is the Founder and CEO of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), which delivers ecological stability and long-term protection of large-scale wilderness landscapes by supporting and empowering local communities. Damien is the winner of the 2019 Winsome Constance Kindness Gold Medal. He was featured in the James Cameron documentaries “The Game Changers” and National Geographic’s “Akashinga – The Brave One’s’” about his work with the women of Akashinga. His TEDx talk at the Sydney Oprah House on speciesism has been translated into 27 languages. He is a resident on the National Geographic Live Speakers Bureau, has lectured at the UN, Harvard University, featured in June 2019’s National Geographic Magazine, three times on 60 Minutes and recognized by the Dutch Government as a Gender Champion.

In this conversation, we talk about Damien’s path from soldier to ranger trainer—his misconceptions when starting out in conservation, and the learning process that followed. We talk about the beginnings of IAPF and what it’s grown into today. We dive into Akashinga and LEAD Ranger, discuss public speaking and the power of storytelling, and go deep on the meaning and power of purpose and commitment. So much to take away from this one. So without further ado, here is Damien Mander.

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Website: iapf.org
Instagram: @int.anti.poaching.foundation
Facebook: @iapf.org
Twitter: @IAPF
LinkedIn: @International Anti-Poaching Foundation

Ep 27: Olivia Swaak-Goldman – Wildlife Justice Commission’s Rhino Horn Threat Assessment.

In this episode, I’m talking with Olivia Swaak-Goldman. Olivia is currently the Executive Director of the Wildlife Justice Commission, whose mission is to disrupt and help dismantle the transnational criminal networks trading in wildlife, timber, and fish, by collecting evidence and turning it into accountability. Olivia has 26 years of experience in international justice and diplomacy, has published extensively on issues of international criminal law and international humanitarian law, and served as a lecturer at both Harvard and Leiden Universities.

This conversation is slightly different from the norm. We do dig into the path that brought Olivia to the WJC, and we take a quick overview of the work being done there, but the majority of this talk concerns WJC’s recent release of their Global Threat Assessment on Rhino horn trafficking as a form of transnational organized crime, which covers intelligence and data analysis from 2012–2021. We really go deep on everything from the demand for and value of rhino horn, the supply chain from poacher to retail seller, the impact of looking at the rhino horn trade as a transnational organized crime problem versus as a conservation problem, the impact COVID has had on the trade, why law enforcement and government agencies need to collaborate across borders, and so much more. We hope that this is a valuable introduction to this threat assessment. And if you’re curious, please visit the Wildlife Justice Commissions website and download the entire 111 page document.

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The Full Rhino Report
Website: wildlifejustice.org
Instagram: @oliviawjc
Facebook: @WildlifeJusticeCommission
Twitter: @WJCommission
LinkedIn: @Wildlife Justice Commission

Ep 26: James Slade – Firefighter, ranger, and wildlife crime prevention at Re:wild.

In this episode, I’m talking with James Slade. James was born in British Columbia surrounded by wildlife on the Canadian West Coast. After some years of traveling he ended up studying at the Southern African Wildlife College. From there he worked as a game ranger and tracker at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, he was the Senior Warden and Operations Manager with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, he worked for the Game Rangers Association of Africa, he was a Technical Advisor for the Bumi Hills Foundation, and he is currently the Wildlife Crime Prevention Officer for Re:wild. On top of that Jame’s is a Volunteer Firefighter with the Lone Butte Fire Department in BC, Canada.

In this conversation, we talk about all of James’ roles and experiences through the lens of following his passion for wild spaces and working in the bush. From his early days growing up in BC, to his decision to study at the SAWC, and all that he has learned and encountered through his varied positions over the years. From training rangers, to combating poaching, to understanding crime prevention. This is another great episode full of stories of following one’s passion and seeing where it takes them.

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Website: rewild.org
Instagram: @james_logan_slade | @rewild
Facebook: @Rewild
Twitter: @rewild

Ep 25: Donaxi Borjes Flores – The life of a ranger and marine biologist on Guadalupe Island, MX.

In this episode, I’m talking with my friend Donaxi Borjes Flores. Donaxi graduated with a degree in Marine Biology from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur. She then volunteered on Guadalupe Island west of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, where she was able to work with rangers stationed on the island. Shortly after she applied for and took a job as a ranger working for the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas on that same island.

In this conversation, we talk about Donaxi’s connection to the ocean, her path through higher education, and how she found herself working on this small protected island. We go into the many duties she must perform as a ranger, some of the research and projects taking place in the unique biome, and we even talk about her experience cage diving with great whites. This has been a great opportunity to learn what rangers are doing from places outside of the African context, and Donaxi is full of passion, energy, and love for her work.

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Website: gob.mx/conanp
Instagram: @conanp_mx
Facebook: @CONANPmx
Twitter: @CONANP_mx

Ep 24: General Johan Jooste – Rhino War: the battle to save Kruger National Park’s rhinos.

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In this episode, I’m talking with retired Major General Johan Jooste. General Jooste spent 35 years in the South African National Defence Force as an infantry officer, a war veteran of Southern African campaigns, and finally exiting the military as the Deputy Chief of the Army. His second career was 5 years as the Director of International Business Development for BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa, a South African defence company. The General’s third career started in 2013 and includes the roles of Officer Commanding Special Projects at Kruger, Officer Commanding Special Projects at SANParks, Law Enforcement and Security Program Manager at Peace Parks Foundation, and Law Enforcement and Security Program Manager seconded to the National Department.

In this conversation, we talk about General Jooste’s past experience in the military and how he ended up leading the para-militarization of the ranger corps at Kruger National Park. We dive into the many challenges he faced, his method for securing the park from the outside in, the risks the rangers must take to protect the rhinos from poaching syndicates, and why he decided to write his new book titled, Rhino War. The General wants to make it clear that all of his answers are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the organizations he works for. There are many great stories and lessons in this one, along with the harsh realities of poaching crisis.

Rhino War: Buy book on Amazon
Instagram: @sanparks | @krugernationalpark | @peaceparks | @tonyparkauthor
Facebook: @SANParksHonoraryRangers

Ep 23: Paul Thomaz – RHINO MAN: an anthem for the rangers, and a passion for music.

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In this episode, I’m talking with Paul Thomaz Lindenberg. Paul is a singer-songwriter who grew up in South Africa during apartheid. He served in the military and became a part of the band, performing for soldiers deployed to the Border War. He eventually made his way to Italy, where his musical career grew. He performed regularly and recorded songs for Polydor Records, some of which are now being re-released through Underflow Records.

This is a very special conversation, because Paul is the father of Matt Lindenberg, my good friend, and the Founder and Executive Director of the Global Conservation Corps. Paul’s newly released song, Rhino Man, was the inspiration for the title of our film and is an ode to the rangers who put their lives on the line to protect the rhinos.

In this chat, we discuss Paul’s early days growing up, his relationship with music, his time in the military, and his desire to see the world. We talk about his musical process, and how he became connected to conservation. We dive into the development of the song Rhino Man, and how that name, along with Matt’s passion for conservation, sparked a movement. Paul even gives us an acoustic taste of Rhino Man at the end of the episode. So make sure to listen to the end, and then go to Spotify or Apple Music to hear the fully produced release.

This episode is dedicated to the late great legend and friend, ranger Anton Mzimba (1980-2022).


Listen to RHINO MAN: song.rhinomanthemovie.org
Website: underflowrecords.com/paulthomaz
Instagram: @lindenberg_consulting | @underflowrecords
Facebook: @underflowrecords