Learn about how we work with partners in Angola, a landscape critical to the survival of numerous African carnivores, including wild cats. Hear from a woman community game guard about what makes her job so important to wild cats — and us.
In a country of lions, leopards and cheetahs, we are uncovering mysteries every day. But on the plains of Angola, we still have much to learn about the under-researched state of the country’s wildlife.
In addition to conducting encouraging camera trap surveys in the region (which showed healthy numbers of leopards, wild dogs, hyenas, smaller cats such as caracal, serval and African wild cat and prey numbers), Panthera and partners have engaged communities to restore threatened carnivore and ungulate populations in Luengue-Luiana National Park in Angola since 2019. Since then, a rapidly expanding team of community game guards has cemented a daily “boots-on-the-ground” presence in this deeply unfamiliar, isolated and war-torn part of southern Africa. Through patrols, monitoring of wildlife, anti-poaching efforts and law enforcement, our current team of 36 community game guards leads the movement to protect this vast landscape and conserve its wildlife. Through dark woodlands and tall grasslands, in piercing rains and searing heat, they cover, on average, roughly 15 kilometers daily, confiscating illegal hunting equipment and deterring poachers. Together, they removed more than 514 wire snares and over 120 gin traps, destroyed 32 poacher camps and confiscated everything from bushmeat to shotguns and nearly 150 kg of ivory in 2022.
Every community game guard comes from one of the villages inside the park and has a remarkable tale to tell. One of them, Team Leader Annastacia Mukorori, continues to punch above her weight in the movement for Angola’s wildlife.
When Annastacia was 11, she and her family fled from their homes to Botswana during the Angolan Civil War in 1999, where she spent her remaining childhood years in a refugee camp. Annastacia returned to Angola in 2013 as a small-scale subsistence crop farmer to support her family, the predominant occupation for those living in Luengue-Luiana's vicinity. Today, as a critical member of Panthera’s staff, she and others help lead a team of community game guards in their pursuit to protect the wildlife of Luengue-Luiana National Park. Annastacia spoke with Panthera Angola Project Manager Willem Nieman to talk about her work:
An Interview with a Woman Community Game Guard
Why did you decide to become a community game guard?
I have always loved wildlife and had a strong desire to join a conservation program that would allow me to help protect our natural resources.
What does being a leader mean to you?
In many ways, it’s just like being a parent; you need to take responsibility for your team and be there to help them with problems they face, whether at work or in their personal lives. It can be challenging! Being a leader is also not about being the best person among others. A leader is just like every human being — we make mistakes, and we need to be able to accept advice from our junior team members.
What does being a woman in conservation mean to you?
I am proud to have the opportunity to be one of the women who is making a change in conservation in Angola.
Of the animals you see in the field, which is your favorite?
My favorite animal is the sable antelope. I like its body structure, black color and the white stripes on the forehead.
How do you see the future of Luengue-Luiana National Park?
I believe Panthera’s project will enable wildlife populations to increase in the years to come, which will eventually attract tourists to the park. While an increased wildlife population will likely lead to more cases of human-wildlife conflict, we will prepare to address that. In time, businesses will start to invest in tourism by building lodges and campsites, which will contribute to the economy of the Angolan government. In turn, employment [opportunities] will be created for the local communities. When wild cats thrive, so too do the communities they live alongside.