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This Australian Sniper Is Now Leading A Fight To Defend Endangered Wildlife From Slaughter

Damien Mander has saved huge populations of elephants and rhinos from being slaughtered.

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Photo Credit: Getty

Elias Marat, The Mind Unleashed

Australian combat veteran Damien Mander had a world of options before him after he returned from his tour of the Middle East.

But the former special ops war-fighter chose to devote his life to defending helpless wild animals from facing slaughter at the hands of illegal poachers.

Damien Mander had completed three years in Iraq where he trained and deployed paramilitary forces to the front lines of combat.

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The toughest journeys are the least pursued ones, but they are the most rewarding. A comfortable life is a dangerous life, and I highly advise against it. Out there, amongst it all, awaits an unbiased and blank canvas. A path that is yet to be carved. A life that is yet to be lived. A story waiting to be written. To walk a beaten track is to follow in familiar footsteps. At some point, if you want to search for something undiscovered, that safe, easy to follow path has to be abandoned. And then shit gets real. Then life really starts. – – Many grey hairs ago… In a galaxy far, far away, September 11 changed the world for a lot of people. It changed the world for me. As a response, the Australian government formed Tactical Assault Group-East (TAG-E). A special operations, direct action and hostage recovery unit. After enduring the mental torture of selection, I came across to TAG-E from the Navy into Water Platoon. I’d been there only two days before being told I was being sent to sniper school. Talk about a fish (Navy Diver) out of water. The Army lads beat me into shape pretty quickly in what I’d say would be the most extreme learning curve I’ve ever encountered.- – Special operations gave me the qualifications I needed to head to Iraq as a private contractor. Iraq gave me the money, life lessons and desperation needed to set up the IAPF. IAPF gave me the purpose I needed to be all I could dream to be in life. – – We all have a path waiting to be carved. And no one will do it for us. If they try – run. Only you can cut your own path. Anything handed to you is a disservice. – – #ClearanceDiver #IAPF #AntiPoaching #Purpose #Vegan #PlantBased #Nature #Sniper #SpecialOperations #Dream #Animals

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Before that, he had served as a special operations sniper in the Australian Army’s Special Forces 2nd Commando Regiment, as well as a Navy Clearance Diver—the Royal Australian Navy equivalent to the U.S. Navy SEALs.

The 40-year-old could well have transitioned into a life of leisure since he had an impressive property portfolio back home.

Instead, Mander visited Africa for a six-month tour where he was exposed to the bloody world of illegal animal poaching in a journey through South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The eye-opening experience changed his life forever and convinced the veteran to devote his life to protecting wild creatures with no means to protect themselves from those who would track, hunt, and slaughter them and their parts for any price.

He told LADBible:

After Iraq I was looking for the next adventure and [a trip to Africa] just seemed like it was going to be a six-month thing to do.

When I travelled around the continent, I was inspired by the work that the rangers were doing.

They have something really worthwhile fighting for: giving up everything, being away from their family for so long each year defending the natural world.

I had just come from Iraq where we were looking after dotted lines on a map and resources in the ground and it made me reflect on who I was as a person.

It was at that point when the animal-loving war vet decided to sell off all of his properties back home to fund his new passion project: International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) and a ranger training academy in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Just as he once trained militia forces in Iraq his foundation now teaches rangers how to covertly track poachers, remain cloaked and camouflaged, conduct ambushes, carry out arrests, and preserve crime scenes.

While the work clearly draws from Mander’s military skills as a fighter, one of the most essential tools was one he learned during his occupation duties in the war-torn Middle East: to win over the hearts and minds of an often-hostile local population, a problem his military “failed” to grasp during the war.

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Earlier this year, Matt Shapira's beautiful artwork and generosity helped raise many yearly salaries for new recruits! Matt's elephant painting on a vintage map made it all the way to Zimbabwe, thanks to Erin Haley. She attended a fundraising event in Colorado hosted by Next Wave Impact and was outbid on one of Matt’s paintings. Afterwards, she got in touch with us to ask if she could commission a painting with her donation. Matt agreed. When it was ready to be shipped, she decided to gift it to the rangers as a token of appreciation for doing one of the hardest jobs there is: saving the natural world. The painting will be hanging in the new ops center being built as we speak. One of our goals is to create a reality in which elephants are treated as carefully as one of these century year-old vintage maps. Elephants, like any species, should be allowed to live out their lives as they wish, to their fullest extent. IAPF is hard at work, making this a reality for more and more wildlife each day. Happy World Elephant Day! #IAPF #Akashinga #WorldElephantDay #talesleftunsaid #elephants #africanelephant #trunksup #elephantlovers #jointheherd #conservation #savetheelephants #saynotopoaching #elephantlove #wildlifeconservation #endwildlifecrime #thisisafrica #bekindtoelephants #saveelephants #worthmorealive #stoppoaching @roaming__elephant @africanveganonabudget @damien_mander @kellyhazelking

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Mander explained:

Beyond the guns and ammo are the lessons I learned in Iraq that have really been the biggest benefit to what we do.

The ability to get the local population on side, get the hearts and minds, that’s more important than anything else and it’s something that we completely failed at in Iraq. We’re able to take those failures from Iraq and turn them into a positive.

So far his efforts have seen a 90% drop in rhino poaching activities in Kruger National Park—which lies along South Africa’s border with Mozambique—where the creatures are coveted by buyers and dealers for their valuable horns. Mander’s team was eventually able to drive out poachers entirely.

By 2016, rhino poaching had finally begun to drop for the first time in a decade. Mander said:

The rate of incursions of poachers into Kruger National Park, about 75 per cent of those were attributed as coming from Mozambique into Kruger and with the operations established on that side of the border that dropped to around 30 per cent.

We got a lot of credit for that, got a lot of kudos.

Further north in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls all attacks on rhinos were put to a halt thanks to the IAPF. However, there was no shortage of friction between the Aussie adventurer and poor locals.

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FIELD REPORT: Recently the International Anti-Poaching Foundation’s (IAPF) Akashinga rangers intercepted a team of three suspected poachers entering Zimbabwe’s World Heritage Listed Mana Pools National Park armed with cyanide, axes and knives. Further information passed to the Akashinga team resulted in a joint operation with the Minerals Flora & Fauna Unit (MFFU) of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), netting the arrest of a fourth suspect who allegedly supplied the cyanide to the would be poachers. Cyanide is sometimes used to kill elephants and other wildlife without force as it is cheap and quiet to use. It is placed near watering holes, on oranges or rock salt where the unsuspecting animals will be baited. The suspect being implicated of supplying the cyanide works in Mberengwa’s mining industry. Miners use cyanide concentrate during the separation process of gold from bulk ores. It exists in two forms, gas and crystal (see small white ‘balloons’ confiscated in photo above). This inhumane method of poaching works quickly, as cyanide cuts off the oxygen supply. Cyanide use in poaching is an ongoing problem in Zimbabwe so these types of arrests are a significant ‘win’ for wildlife. Cyanide is easily obtained illegally, so monitoring and protecting these areas remains a vigilant task. The suspects will appear in Kariba Magistrates Court. Thank you to all those involved in this operation. To support our continued work, please follow link in bio. #IAPF #Akashinga #antipoaching #rangers #wildlife #conservation #zimparks #racingextinction #savetheelephants #elephants #womenempowerment #womenwholead #africa #socialmovements #illegalwildlifetrade #stopivorytrade

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For Mander, the problems of prolonged conflict had begun to reveal themselves and it was necessary to change the strategic approach. He explained:

We had helicopters, drones, canine attack teams, military grade hardware [but] we had this ongoing conflict with the local population and while we might have won that battle overall, what we were doing was not sustainable.

We were saving rhinos and we were having a war with the local population on a continent that is going to have two billion people on it by 2040.

To get the support of the locals Mander decided to begin integrating female rangers into his team. Many of them are themselves victims of predatory attacks such as serious sexual assault, domestic violence, and gender violence in their communities.

The all-female units are now the most elite force within the foundation with 120 rangers having already carried out 140 arrests.

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Throwback Thursday alert! Remember when these amazing LEADRangers graduated? Here they are, celebrating right after the ceremony. We’re immensely proud that all participants persevered through to completion of the course. This is commendable, as there was a stringent selection process prior to attending—and the standards and pace remain high the whole time. After the graduation ceremony, they each returned to their own units across the continent as qualified instructors and leaders, ready to work with and train their fellow rangers with new lifesaving skills so they can more effectively end poaching and degradation of wild lands. Visit the link in our bio to learn more about their training, graduation, and a recap of what they've accomplished with their time at our LEADRanger facility. LEADRanger empowers the next generation of frontline conservation leaders⁣⁣. It is a collaborative initiative of @int.anti.poaching.foundation, the @thingreenlinefoundation, and @rangercampus⁣⁣. @lead_ranger @rangerboris @dominiquenoome ___________________ #IAPF #Akashinga #LEADRanger #TBT #throwbackthursday #standwithrangers #leadership #antipoaching #rangers #wildlife #conservation #racingextinction #elephants #wildlifeconservation #inspiration #animallove #protect #leadbyexample ⁣⁣#theresnoiinteam #wildlifeprotection ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣#lawenforcement⁣⁣ #humanrights⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣#savetheelephants #thisisafrica #illegalwildlifetrade #saynotoivory #defender #endwildlifecrime #myafrica #endangeredspecies

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Mander has a sharp message and basic appeal to the humanity of the poachers. He said:

We are one of millions of species on this planet but we’re the only one that determines what level of suffering and destruction is acceptable for all others.

We sit here talking about different species going extinct but the reality is if we don’t look after this one beautiful backyard we’ve been given it’s not the elephant or the rhino that’s going extinct; it’ll be us.

We need to decide if we want to be part of the future and if we do, we need to make changes.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Animal World

Millions Of Dead Birds Fall From The Sky Across New Mexico And The Southwest

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Photo Credit: Unilad

Paul SeaburnGuest Writer

It is rarely, if ever, a good thing when something falls from the sky that isn’t precipitation-related. It’s worse when those things are living or sick – tragic and frightening when they’re already dead. The recent news out of New Mexico of dead birds falling from the sky across the state, and now across the entire Southwest, goes beyond tragic and frightening simply because of the sheer numbers.

“It’s just terrible. The number is in the six figures. Just by looking at the scope of what we’re seeing, we know this is a very large event, hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions of dead birds, and we’re looking at the higher end of that.”

Martha Desmond, a professor at the University of New Mexico in the fish, wildlife and conservation ecology department with expertise in ornithology, told CNN she was contacted in mid-August 2020 when a large number of dead birds were discovered at the US Army White Sands Missile Range and White Sands National Monument. Dead birds at White Sands immediately raises suspicions of radiation poisoning (it was a primary location for the Manhattan Project) or military testing. However, before that could be confirmed, more dead birds appeared in Doña Ana County, Jemez Pueblo, Roswell, Socorro and other areas of New Mexico. (Sad photos here.)

We have been collecting dead birds (with appropriate permits) off the streets, on campus, at local golf courses, literally EVERYWHERE. (3/9) 

We have noticed that the majority of species collected are insectivores and long-distance migrants, such as swallows, wood-pewees, empidonax flycatchers, and warblers. (4/9) 

Another interesting note is that resident species, such as Curve-billed Thrashers, White-winged Doves, and Great-tailed Grackles do not seem to be impacted at all. (6/9)

Allison Salas, a graduate student at New Mexico State, joined Desmond in collecting and cataloguing the dead birds, which by the beginning of September were also being reported Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Mexico. She tweeted alerts on the dead birds, noting that they were all migrating insectivore species, not local species. Before you suggest smoke inhalation from the West Coast fires, Salas has already concluded that the fires may be the cause, but not necessarily the smoke.

“We have very little data, but suspect that the west coast fires, in combination with the local cold front we experienced last week, has altered the migration patterns of many migrants. On top of that, there is little food and water available here in the Chihuahuan Desert. (7/9)”

Desmond told CNN that the birds appear to have migrated early, before they had enough fat reserves built up. Weak and finding cold weather and a lack of insects on their stops in New Mexico to feed, they probably starved or died because they were too weak to keep flying – many of the bodies were extremely thin. However, the deaths started before the fires, so Desmond suspects there may be other causes that are not readily apparent. Not surprisingly, she thinks those causes will also be related to climate change. The study now has a name – the Southwest Avian Mortality Project – and, as of this writing, birds are still dying and being sent to the school.

Is there any good news? Anything?

That’s the sound of no birds chirping.

Recommended Articles by Paul Seaburn
About the Author

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as “The Tonight Show”, “Politically Incorrect” and an award-winning children’s program. He’s been published in “The New York Times” and “Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humour. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humour to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn’t always have to be serious.

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Animal World

Endangered Orcas Have Begun Surrounding And Attacking Boats This Sümter

Numerous cases of Orcas ramming boats have been reported, and some experts suggest that the orcas could be fighting back against perceived threats.

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Endangered Orcas Have Begun Surrounding And Attacking Boats This Sümter
Photo Credit: Getty

(TMU) – Numerous cases of Orcas ramming boats in the Gibraltar Strait near Spain and Portugal have been reported this summer, and some experts suggest that the orcas could be fighting back against perceived threats posed by fishing boats and other vessels. This type of behavior is very unusual for the species, which is typically known to be friendly and playful.

On July 29th, biology graduate Victoria Morris was on a sailboat off the coast of Spain when her crew was surrounded by a pod of about nine orcas. At first, the crew was interested to see such a strange natural phenomenon, but then the mood suddenly changed. The orcas began to aggressively ram into the boat in what seemed to be a coordinated attack.

In the deep: a pod of highly intelligent killer whales, or orcas. Constant harassment by boats affects their ability to hunt, and has a negative impact on their behaviour. Photograph: Rand McMeins/Getty Images

“They just started surrounding us in a circle, coming for the rudder and the keel. They really just were going for us, and there was definitely no playing,” Morris said during a CBC interview.

The orcas kept up their assault for about an hour until they caused some serious damage to the boat. According to the Guardian, this incident is just one of four similar cases that took place this summer.

Morris believes that the orcas were communicating to coordinate their attack, or in her words, they “orca-strated” it. She says that she heard whistling sounds during the attack, which she believed to be the orcas communicating.

“It was like a whistle, like a very, very loud whistle, and there was lots of them, maybe about four or five of them were doing it at the same time. And it was just so loud,” she said. “It was actually quite amazing to hear,” Morris explained.

She said that when her crew called for help, “it was almost like they didn’t believe us at first.”

“They asked us to repeat a quite a few times. Like, ‘Can you confirm that you are actually under attack by orcas?” she said.

The crew was eventually rescued and towed into the nearby town Barbate, where shocked onlookers observed a boat covered in bite marks.

Marine biologist Jörn Selling has suggested that possibly the orcas became comfortable with the quieter waters during the pandemic restrictions, and are now disturbed by the increase in traffic now that businesses are slowly going back to normal.

Morris believes the orcas seemed to be fighting back against something, and she hopes that these encounters could raise some awareness about what this species is facing.

“They do have the capacity to be angry and they’re very, very intelligent creatures and so it is very possible. But if that is true, then, you know, something needs to be done. I think as bad as it is that all these attacks have been happening, especially to us, but I think in a way it’s also a good thing because it’s turned the spotlight on the fact that there is a problem. Something has changed that’s causing them to do this,” Morris said.

The Gibraltar orcas are endangered, and it is estimated that there are fewer than 50 of them remaining in the wild.

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World’s Rarest Great Ape, Discovered 3 Years Ago, Is Fast Being Wiped Out By British Firm’s Goldmine

It is feared that the rarest great ape species on the planet could soon be made extinct by transnational mining operations.

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World’s rarest great ape, discovered 3 years ago, is fast being wiped out by British firm’s goldmine
Photo Credit: TMU

(TMU) When scientists discovered the Tapanuli Orangutan in 2017, they were ecstatic. After all, these rare primates were the first great ape species to be discovered in almost a century. But now, with only about 800 of the newly-identified animals remaining, it is feared that the rarest great ape species on the planet could soon be made extinct by transnational mining operations.

The Tapanuli orangutan can be found only in a single high-elevation forest in the Batang Toru Ecosystem, which lies in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The area is rich in biodiversity, with other highly endangered species like the Pangolin and Sumatran tiger calling it home.

However, the lush rainforest of Batang Toru is also the site of a major gold-mining project by Jardine Matheson, an Anglo multinational conglomerate whose dealings in Asia date back nearly 200 years, when it trafficked opium to China from colonial India to the Pearl River Delta and directly helped deliver Hong Kong to the British imperialists.

The Hong Kong-based transnational corporation now has extensive holdings across Southeast Asia and the world, including automobile companies, dairy farms, and ownership of the Mandarin Oriental hotel chain.

But ever since 2018, when Jardine Matheson bought the Martabe goldmine on Sumatra Island, the company has been expanding its operations deeper and deeper into the Tapanuli orangutans’ environment. This has entailed the destruction of the irreplaceable Tapanuli orangutan forest habitat with projects to expand mining infrastructure including the huge massive Batang Toru hydroelectric dam project, which is meant to power the smelters of the Martabe mine.

Scientists are now warning that the damage is so great that if only eight of the Tapanuli orangutans are killed each year, the genetic diversity of the isolated great ape species would decline to the point of no return over the next decade.

Conservationist group Mighty Earth has been organizing and advocating for an end to the destruction of the Tapanuli orangutan habitat by the Martabe gold-mining project and is demanding that Jardine Matheson halt the deliberate damage being done to the forest ecosystem.

“I think this is an issue of corporate responsibility,” campaign director Amanta Hurotwitz told The Telegraph. “You have a mine in the habitat of the most endangered species of great ape… If you are going to profit off this species you have a responsibility to take action to protect the species.

However, spokespeople for the transnational conglomerate strongly reject the claims, explaining that they strictly abide by the guidelines of local authorities, including any environmental regulations that are in place.

“The mine has not encroached on areas categorized as protected forest and has been clear on its commitment to protecting biodiversity,” a spokesperson said.

However, conservationists fear that the Tapanuli orangutan, whose unique genetic make-up and behavior delighted scientists and primatologists, could be forever lost due to the devastating carelessness and corruption that comes with corporate greed – especially in the case of such large-scale mining operations.

Hurotwitz urged the company to rethink its practices, noting that it is crucial that Jardine Matheson resolves to “work with scientists to mitigate the damage that has been done.”

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Animal World

Incredible Photos Of A Rare Black Panther Roaming In The Jungles Of India

Jung explored the Kabini Forest in Karnataka, India and captured stunning film and photographs of the elusive and majestic black cat of the forest.

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Photo Credit: Shaaz Jung

(TMU) – After studying Economics at the Utrecht University in Europe, wildlife filmmaker and photographer Shaaz Jung returned to the forests of south India where he spent most of his childhood.

His lifelong fascination with the jungle and its wild cats, leopards and the mysterious black panthers in particular, was instrumental in changing his career path from corporate to conservationist and photographer extraordinaire.

Jung’s goal was to discover and understand the lives of the masters of darkness, the black panthers. To fulfill his dream, Jung explored the Kabini Forest in Karnataka, India over the past couple of years and returned not only wiser, but also with stunning film and photographs of the elusive and majestic black cat of the forest.

“I spent two and a half years in the Kabini Forest, between December 2017 and January 2020, on a filming permit. This filming permit allowed [me and the team] to make a documentary on the black panther for National Geographic.”

According to Jung, every day was like a journey into the unknown and their attempts to discover the panther’s secrets ended up being one of the most challenging projects he had ever worked on.

“This black panther is a leopard with an abundance of melanin. Unlike other cats in the Kabini Forest, there is only one black panther,” Jung explained. “This of course makes him far more difficult to photograph. However, since 2015… photographers have been fortunate enough to see him and take pictures. We are, however, the first to make a dedicated movie on him.”

Patience is definitely one trait all wildlife photographers need to learn early in their careers and it’s probably safe to say the entire team on the project have mastered this particular art during their time in the jungle.

“It’s been an incredible journey,” Jung said. “I would like to thank the Karnataka Forest Department for protecting these forests. Their hard work enables us to catch glimpses of these beautiful animals that are thriving in our Indian forests.”

Raised in South India, with jungle forests on his doorstep and several of India’s best national parks in the area, Jung grew up in wonder and respect for the jungle. “The jungle is a labyrinth riddled with secrets that are waiting to be uncovered. Every day in the forest was like a puzzle and I had to put the pieces of this puzzle together in order to successfully unlock its secrets,” he said of his 30 month jungle journey.

Unlock the secrets he most assuredly did, capturing these stunning moments on film. “The camera allowed me to take photographs, immortalizing these moments, relishing life, and inspiring the world. Wildlife is unpredictable and I love the challenge of tracking your subject before you can photograph it. It feels far more rewarding,” Jung said.

Shaaz Jung followed his dream, a dream turned into reality, taking him all over the world to capture the amazing creatures that roam Earth. Now also an ambassador for Nikon India and Samsung, Jung runs Safari Lodges in South India and in East Africa, where he also guides private safaris.

More info: shaazjung.com | Instagram

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