An interview with Marc Mc Donald
P.S.W. had the opportunity to interview the founder of the well-known Fauna and Flora protection organization: ICORP. Marc Mc Donald released this interview to give the opportunity to all folks globally who are unfamiliar with ICORP to understand and their fight and possible assist through funding, volunteering or donating equipment to ensure ICORP is able to keep up the “good fight”.
ICORP- International Coalition of Rhino Protection – is a non-profit organization founded in 2014 to protect all Fauna and Flora in Southern Africa from the plague of poaching. We are talking about counter-poaching operations.
In the next few pages, you will read the complete interview between our security anthropologist and Mr. Mc Donald.
Most of the places that we name in the article are not specified in the accurate location since we want to keep the reserves safe at all times.
- Marc, can you tell us about your experience in the sector?
Yes, I can tell you but we have to go a little back in time. In my early years in the military I served during the war in Namibia (1983-1984). After that I was started my conservation career in Botswana, Timbavati Game Reserve and eventually starting a rewarding career in the Kruger National Park. In 2008 I started managing Reserves in Mozambique. It was during this period that I realized how bad the situation was with poaching in Southern Africa, this was also a war, which we were losing back then.
In those years I did not have the idea of founding something alone to counter this issue but later on the thought came to my mind and so I began. The passion was always the key that drew and still drives my decisions and effort, without it you cannot go far in this sector.
- How did the ICORP concept begin?
ICORP was founded back in 2014, that time, the organization was very different and definitely smaller than it is today. I remember starting out with about 350 dollars, I think that commitment can overcome material limitations and in my case I was right. The first years were everything but easy, we had many obstacles and, as it often happens, some enemies too.
Today we are one of the biggest, coalitions globally. We are registered as a not for profit in three countries – Australia, South Africa and the USA. We are also members of PSiRA the private security watch dog in South Africa. All financial and asset donations made are reported to our external auditors and we are required by law to present our financial records to the IRS in the US, as well as the not for profit and charities commission in Australia. All donations are used for our projects in Mozambique and South Africa.
Our website is open to all visitors.
We still have a lot to do and Counter Poaching is a global issue. We need global assistance and we invite folk who are serious about wildlife and communites to become part of this journey. Nobody is “useless” or worthless, in this war. Come and join hands, walking shoulder to shoulder for the protection of Fauna and Flora in Southern Africa.
We are at war! A war to save wildlife.
- Which is your opinion on African poaching? Why is it so important for the world and not only for Africa?
It’s very simple. If we fail this time, everything will be over. If we lose the war against poaching everything is going to collapse, can you imagine coming to an African country for tourism and not being able to see the “big five” (Elephant, Lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino).
Each year we are losing hundreds of animals that will not come back. This is not the kind of world that I want to leave for the generations behind me or to the world and it’s not what ICORP is about.
- Do you remember your most dangerous operation? What did you learn from it?
There were many dangerous operations in our lives, in some way it’s just part of our job and we accept it. Most people think that danger is mainly about ambushes or random attacks that just occur without expectation when we patrol or in similar situations but they do not view the deep danger we face when collecting intelligence on the field.
I would say that when we track poachers inside the reserves, the possibility that we actually begin a fire fight with them is less than 10%, but if you know what having to do with weapons is about, you understand that 10% is a big number.
My most dangerous operation was about tracking. We were following 4 men running out of the park, they were dropping equipment while being chased as it always happens in these kind of situations, for some reason at a particular moment they opened fire, the AK-47 bullets where flying above our heads and all we could here was noise. We were afraid, like everyone would be, but it’s our job and we have a mentality of “duty first”.
- Is it risky to send volunteer people to Africa? Can it cause any security issue?
It’s not my way to judge other organizations on anything that they do so I will not say anything about anyone in particular. I must say anyway that the risk of sending untrained people to Africa with the wrong idea in mind is something that many have done in the past. If you send a person who may be able to shoot and has got some tactical background (when they have it) in South Africa or Mozambique, you cannot call these people “rangers”!
It’s a totally different thing. Here in Africa the environment is your first obstacle when doing counter-poaching, then you think about the people. Someone who is not trained and is not willing to train in a serious way with weapons and environmentally is not a good resource in our vision.
We also have volunteers who work alongside our rangers, who are veterans from the military and are mostly used for operations , training and front line duties, while some are from civilian life and take non front line tasks. We only target and train serious candidates, not everyone is cut for the CP field and there are also many others way of helping us.
All of our permanent staff are highly trained and experienced, dedicated and motivated – this is the most important factor.
- Which will be your next steps in ICORP?
We have a few steps in mind and as it always happens in our sector it’s better to be very cautious about what you say before you have done it. What I can say is that we are expanding quite rapidly lately, we have ICORP chapters in various places of the world such as Australia, Italy, South Africa, Mozambique, USA , Czechoslovakia, Spain and Germany and the UK.
Our Sanctuary in Mozambique is in an advanced stage of development, while our operations in South Africa are expanding as we already protect close to 15000 hectares of privately owned Reserves.
ICORP is also compiling a basic Ranger course that will be released in early 2021.
Community engagement and projects developed which includes permaculture, beekeeping, Tourism and conservation research.
A fully trained all female Ranger unit will be commenced in 2021.
Additional K9 units will be added into our unit alongside Karma our existing K9
We are constantly working on communication to find new help and open new chapters;
our Ranger units are becoming bigger as more needs are met to protect wildlife, hardwoods and the integrity of Reserves.
If you are able to assist ICORP, please send an email through the contact page on the website – www.icorprotection.org
We deeply thank Marc Mc Donald for the opportunity he gave us by releasing this interview and hope to get to know more soon about the development of this incredible network.
Do you want to tell us something about Africa and your personal commitment to this continent?