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Friedkin Conservation Fund Microlight Project

The Friedkin Conservation Fund (FCF), a Tanzanian based nonprofit and US registered 501(c)3, has apprehended over 13,000 poachers since they began their crucial work in 2002. Credited to gaining on the ground experience, increased financial support, and professionally trained and equipped private anti-poaching rangers has created incredible results; between 2005-2010 there were 11,857 arrests made, dramatically illustrating the increased effectiveness of FCF.

5H-SCI Microlight

In 2010, the SCI Record Book Committee and the SCI Foundation Conservation Committee donated US $38,000 toward the purchase, operations and maintenance costs of a new anti-poaching microlight (known in the States as an ultralight).  The microlight’s wing sails were fitted with the SCI “First for Hunters” logo and was given the registered call name of “5H-SCI”.  US$26,000 of this contribution came from profits of the SCI Record Book sales.  In 2011, SCI/F made another donation of US$12,500 toward the continued operation and maintenance costs of flying 5H-SCI. 

In 2010, 5H-SCI had 54 flights totaling 95 hours and covering 7,183km (4,634 miles, a little less than the distance from New York City to Rome).  FCF forecasts these numbers should be doubled in 2011 due to only operating 5H-SCI for the last half of the 2010.  Confiscated paraphernalia from all FCF teams, including items from 5H-SCI flights, include 72 firearms, 12 automatic weapons, 2,245 rounds of ammunition, 1,425 snares, 55 spears, 107 arrows, 47 vehicles used in poaching activities, 20,380 livestock (grazing illegally in Game Reserves), 504 bicycles, 134 saws, 2,843 illegally harvested timber planks, 976 magogo (uncut tree trunks), 1,078 charcoal bags, 627 charcoal ovens identified and destroyed and 44 canoes used in poaching activities.

Flying a microlight has a major deterring effect to poachers.  The unit is extremely cost effective (about one-third the cost of operating a small single engine plane).  The information collected via radio and GPS are real-time and accurate.  This gives FCF ranger teams on the ground an edge at locating and apprehending poachers.  The microlights are also used for game counts, aerial surveys and spot checks on certain situations such as an anthrax outbreak.

During a routine day, the pilot prepares a flight plan on the ground as ranger teams are on standby. Once airborne and flying slowly, the flight is generally conducted at a height of 500 feet above the ground. If an illegal bushmeat camp is spotted, the pilot will record a GPS waypoint and relay this to the ground teams. They will then coordinate and execute a patrol and, if the pilot can land the trike soon after relaying this information, he will join the team on the ground to help with the arrest.

In The Field

On the morning of February 22, 2011, FCF’s mobile anti-poaching team, The Sables, departed their base camp on the Ugalla River on a routine patrol of the western parts of the Ugalla Game Reserve. The team headed west along the North Ugalla River Road toward the Luganzo and Msima areas of the reserve. Large portions of those areas are typically underwater at that time of year, but due to drought conditions, the teams had access to the area.

Shortly after crossing the Ugalla River into Msima, the team picked up fresh bicycle and foot tracks next to the road leading away toward the miombo forest.  After a short time, one of the rangers in the lead dropped to the ground as he had seen four men cooking in a kichaka (thick bush around a termite mound). Planning how to ambush the gang of poachers, the team was spotted by the gang’s lookout, who shouted, “come this way, they are here, come and finish them!” Fortunately for the Sables the gang’s shooter ran away with his firearm.

The poachers split up and groups of two or three FCF rangers gave chase. Rangers Temba, Gunje and Sobi apprehended one suspect while ranger Ntugwa Sayi outdistanced his support and confronted one of the poachers on his own. In a matter of seconds, both ranger and poacher were bleeding profusely from stab wounds sustained in the ensuing knife fight. Tanzanian policy dictates that non-government personnel are forbidden to carry firearms. All of FCF’s anti-poaching personnel patrol unarmed and have done so since the inception of the anti-poaching program. Ranger Sayi was stabbed in the right shoulder/bicep and received two extensive slashes across the top of his head and nose. The poacher managed to escape and Ranger Sayi was quickly caught up by Patrol Commander Temba who administered first aid. He managed to control the bleeding and then loaded Ranger Sayi onto the support vehicle, evacuating him to more professional medical support in the city of Tabora, more than 200km and eight hours away.

Two suspects were arrested and handed in to police custody. Elephant tail hairs, a small hacksaw for cutting ivory and a scale for weighing ivory were submitted as evidence. The case has yet to be heard at the time of this writing, but we are confident that with the oversight of the Wildlife Division’s regional specialist Wildlife Prosecutor the suspects are likely to receive lengthy convictions.

Ranger Sayi has healed remarkably well. Thanks to good first aid and quality medical treatment at St. Philip’s in Tabora, the range of movement in his arm is expected to return to normal and the scarring on his head and face to be minimal.


FCF uses modern technology such as radios (VHF and HF), laptop computers, GPS units, satellite phones, binoculars and night vision units to their advantage in the field.  FCF is the eyes and ears in the bush with three microlight trikes, a fleet of fourteen Land Cruisers, motorbikes, canoes and motorboats to cover 5.5 million acres from the ground, air and water.

FCF currently employs 80 anti-poaching field-based rangers, three village-based community development field coordinators, six management and five senior level management who work in Arusha, Tanzania.  They work on a field budget of US$600,000 for anti-poaching, US$320,000 in community development work and about US$7,000 for GIS mapping and data capture research.

One would hope that arresting poachers has consequences and the reality of the situation is that constant follow-up work from FCF is the key to ensure there is justice. This is a vital step in the process and is a gentle reminder to all involved along the way that FCF expects appropriate convictions. 

In theory, anti-poaching efforts also increase the trophy quality of animals. If mature males of any species are considered trophies, then by providing the opportunity to achieve mature status will translate to more quality animals.  Anti-poaching helps ensure that natural systems are kept in balance, especially in situations where poaching is an ongoing problem.

When asked, “If another hunting company saw the value in anti-poaching efforts, how could they get started?  Is it too expensive for most hunting companies?”  Keith Roberts recommends, “First, employ an individual to manage the program, who has a passion and understanding for the work.  Then employ rangers, train and equip them and have them in the field.  Keep a sharp eye on the teams to ensure their efforts yield maximum benefits.”  Keith emphasizes that there needs to be a commitment to the continuity of the program, as the biggest challenge is securing funds on an annual basis.  Anti-poaching is very expensive costing on average US$44,000 per year for a five-man team with government back-up.

When asking anti-poaching rangers about their commitment to conservation, Boni Haule, a FCF Mobile Team Coordinator speaks up, “I chose to work for FCF because it is the only company that gives me an option of being proactive. …I have to start actively protecting our wildlife and ecosystem …Without protecting, everything shall disappear and I am passionate about sustaining it for the future of Tanzania.” Even though the job takes the rangers away from family and stakes are high, Boni continues, “I know the job is dangerous and takes me away from home for months at a time but in exchange I have the satisfaction of knowing I may have kept out one poacher, stopped one animal from dying needlessly or kept illegal loggers out of the game reserves. Maybe in sixty years I can look back at the reserves and say I was part of sustaining that.”

Community Development

FCF believes they must address the cause (poverty and human resource pressure) and not just the effects (poaching), and considers community development to go hand in hand with anti-poaching efforts.  Elliot Kinsey, FCF Community Development Manager, states, “While FCF believes that law-enforcement is a vital component of conservation efforts, we also appreciate the fact that poaching is a symptom of much deeper issues… Working with villages encourages community members to become partners in conservation and empowers them to tackle problems associated with poverty in their communities.” Part of FCF’s mission is to enable communities by the design and implementation of projects that provide sustainable income generation for individuals in the villages. At the same time, FCF recognize the necessity to promote projects that are ecologically sustainable and viable in the long-term.

Currently in Tanzania, minimal tangible benefits from wildlife resource revenue trickle down to the rural communities.  Elliot continues, “Many community members do not appreciate the value of ‘outsiders’ using their land and resources and resort to unsustainable resource utilization as their livelihoods.” Threats to conservation come from poverty stricken communities in or around the protected areas that use these natural areas to illegally graze and water cattle, which takes nutrient rich grasses and water away from wildlife populations; providing additional sources of protein, through bushmeat poaching; and ultimately increases their income through the sale of illegal timber, poached ivory, etc.     

Working with villages, FCF empowers communities to take ownership of wildlife and right to use and access natural resources.  Batro, an FCF village-based community development officer says, “FCF has a real commitment to work and help the local communities in managing the natural resources for sustainable development. FCF involves the local communities by making them initiate and implement [projects] themselves.” This creates a balance between the villages’ direct stake in the conservation of these natural resources and working with the safari operator.  One of the biggest challenges in conservation comes from human pressure for natural resources. Ensuring villages participate and see benefits from aid projects, funded by the safari company operating on their tribal land and neighboring game reserves, they appreciate the value from the sustainable use of their wildlife. 

FCF community work includes: income generating projects such as fish farming and organic honey bee keeping; school library support; student educational scholarships; borehole well drilling; construction of schools and teacher housing; establishment of village community banks (VICOBAs) and environmental and health education, among others. For more information, please visit the FCF official website.

Participation and Donations

Unusual in the nonprofit arena, 100 percent of every donated dollar goes to work on the ground. FCF Manager Keith Roberts explains, “We are in a fortunate position that the Friedkin family, through Tanzania Game Trackers Safaris (TGTS) and Wengert Windrose Safaris (WWS), covers all of FCF’s day-to-day operating costs… Meaning that outside donations go solely into the project on the ground.” Transparency is something that FCF prides itself in and its books are audited by a third party yearly.

Even the professional hunters (PH) help anti-poaching teams by providing information on poaching activities, recording biological sightings, animal deaths and mapping roads while hunting or doing pre-season work. The PHs personally contribute US$100 each toward the annual FCF “best anti-poaching team” awards during the company’s end of year celebrations.

FCF would like to especially thank SCI and SCI Foundation for their continued financial support and commitment to the protection of wildlife and hunters. Also, a thank you to TGTS and WWS clients and private individuals for participating by making valuable donations of cash and equipment to the programs. 

To make a tax-deductible donation to FCF, please visit their official website for more information.

FCF is a registered (US and Tanzanian) non-profit 501(c)3, non-governmental organization incorporated in 1994 (Certificate of Registration SO.NO.9807). Its role is to assist the Tanzanian Government with the conservation and preservation of more than 6.1 million acres of Tanzania’s protected areas. FCF achieves that through its internationally recognized anti-poaching initiative, innovative community development program and field research projects. 

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