Radios Help Protect African Wildlife

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For nearly 30 years the Motorola PT-300 radio was one of the main tools Saskatchewan Environment conservation officers used to help protect the province’s wildlife. The 228 radios enabled conservation officers to talk to each other or to stay in contact with a main base. They used to the radios during activities that ranged from coordinating night patrols for poachers to fighting forest fires.

Each radio weighs about two kilograms, takes 11 “D” cell batteries and has a range of about 15 kilometres without using a repeater and 50 kilometres using a repeater. The replacement value of each unit, based on a new model that does the same job, is about $1500.

In 2000, when these radios were replaced, one of the questions became what to do with them. The answer was found in Africa.

Members of the non-profit Saskatchewan Association of Conservation Officers thought it would be a good idea to donate the radios to several African countries to help in their wildlife conservation efforts. Even though the Motorola PT-300 radios were retired from use in Saskatchewan they were still better than many of the systems in use by conservation officers in Africa.

Setting the donation up took a lot more than simply packaging the radios and sending them to the countries. The Saskatchewan Association of Conservation Officers bought the radios from the province and donated them through the Ranger Relief program. This international program aids developing countries by gathering used or retired law enforcement equipment and distributing it to game wardens in these countries.

“More often than not, this is the only equipment these officers have to combat poaching,” says Dean Grisdale, President of the Saskatchewan Association of Conservation Officers.

The Association’s members also coordinated the transfer of the radios from the province to the federal government. The radio project also took a partnership between the provincial and federal governments, federal and provincial wildlife agencies and non-government organizations. Saskatchewan Environment tested and repaired the radios and got them ready for shipping. The Canadian Wildlife Service coordinated the delivery of the equipment to Ottawa, the International Fund for Animal Welfare contributed 110 antennas and enough batteries for six months and the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade delivered the radios in diplomatic pouches.

But like many projects, the radio donation got its start with one person.

"One of our members remembered seeing the request to assist African agencies when he heard that these old radios were going to be sold,” says Grisdale. “He approached the association’s executive and everyone agreed this was definitely a worthwhile cause. I think that it simply proves, once again, that no matter where you are, protecting our natural resources is more than just a career choice. It is a strong personal commitment, be it here or in Africa and we are just glad we could help out. It is great to see the cooperation between so many agencies. It validates what we do."

Saskatchewan Environment’s Director of Enforcement, Dave Harvey, says the people involved in conserving and protecting wildlife are facing similar challenges, especially from poachers. In Africa, poachers are still going after many endangered or threatened animals. They also take elephants for their ivory and rhinoceroses for their horns.

“We in North America take much of what we do and have for granted,” says Environment’s Harvey. “It is our hope that these radios will help our counterparts in African countries protect their valuable wildlife resources from poaching. Basically, anything we can do to help, we will.”

The radios were sent to Chad, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Uganda and Zambia.