One-Man TuskForce: ‘Super tracker’ soldier deployed to Africa on a mission to save elephants from cold-blooded poachers (Gabon)


David Willetts, The Sun

Date Published

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Gurkha Corporal Gyanendra Rai, 31, who served alongside Prince Harry in Helmand’s badlands in 2007, is believed to be the Army’s best tracker.

Now he has been posted to Gabon, Africa, to hunt down criminals who slaughter forest elephants for ivory.

In the last decade 36,000 have died to feed the sick trade.

But Rangers battling to stop the poachers now have a secret weapon – Cpl Rai.

Embedded within 2 Rifles, Rai has been tracking poachers armed with AK47s and grenade launchers through almost impenetrable jungle.

He said: “The poachers always leave little clues for each other as they are terrified of getting lost in here alone.

“They leave bullet cartridges in crooks of trees pointing in the direction they are heading, or tiny machete marks scratched into trunks.

“They can’t carry the ivory out easily so they hide their stashes and mark them with little signs. “It’s my job to train the Gabonese to catch them but also keep track of the elephants they are trying to kill.”

The poachers have even been known to slaughter baby elephants with tusks an inch long – and hire children as mules for their gear.

Much of their haul is smuggled to China.

Now Cpl Rai is passing on his skills to the Rangers so they can maintain the hunt for poachers. Rai – who honed his skills in Brunei – added: “For poachers I’m looking for regular impressions in the dirt – not just footprints, but the ark of a walking cane or a heavy weapon being dragged along the ground.

“When I see crushed foliage, I know the paler the breaks on the stems are, the fresher that trail is.

“For elephants, I know they like to use the same pathways each time, so you look for their prints, but also snapped branches above as they like to pull down at branches as they go. “Sadly this also makes them easier for poachers to follow too.”

The jungle is stuffed with other dangers as well as heavily armed poachers, Cpl Rai added: “The jungle is home to Gabon vipers, black mambas and gorillas. “Turning your back on a gorilla is fatal.

“You have to be very careful around elephants too. “If they make a “Brrr!” sound they want you to back off.

“Escaping a charging elephant in thick jungle is very hard.”

Armed Forces minister Mark Lancaster said, “Cpl Rai represents the best of the British Army’s Gurkhas: uncompromisingly professional and battle-hardened and fearless.

“My advice to any prospective poacher is to think again.

“British Army teams with a mix of operational experience and youth are deployed across Africa delivering vital training, like this, promoting prosperity and stability.”

Super trackers are even used in the Brunei jungle to train SAS troops to leave no trace for enemies to follow. Corporal Rai himself has been a tracker in Brunei and won challenges to snag an army task force inside the quickest time.

Major Joe Murray of 2 Rifles is leading Rai as part of team of sixteen hand-picked troops and said: “Corporal Rai is the best of the best.

“My regiment have experienced the jungle before. “It’s incredibly humid, dense and deadfall is constantly falling down from above your head. “But Corporal Rai has added another unique skill set.”

British troops have deployed to Gabon since September 2015 to help train Rangers guarding national parks against poachers.