This week, we want to highlight one of our community members inspiring “passion projects.” Steve Brignoli, founder of EF member company Beyond SOF, previously spent 10 years in the US Army, including time in Africa where he saw the impact elephant poaching was having on the continent’s stability and prosperity first hand. After separating from service, he met Scott Throckmorton, a former US Army Operations and Intelligence Master Sergeant with multiple deployments and field experience and together they founded Humanitarian Operations Protecting Elephants or H.O.P.E. H.O.P.E. is groundbreaking non-profit NGO that provides world class training, advisory, assistance and procurement services to African counter-poaching programs. It achieves its mission by leveraging the skill sets of US military veterans supported by subject matter experts in conservation, natural resource economics, illicit finance, anthropology,international relations and other disciplines as well as an assistance network of commercial partners. H.O.P.E.’s work, under the leadership of one of our EF members, is making huge waves of success in wildlife conservation throughout Africa.
H.O.P.E. has already accomplished extensive ongoing conservation groundwork in multiple parts of Africa. Their first big project was in Mozambique, in an area called Coutada 11. Working alongside a conservation unit of Zambeze Delta Safaris, they’ve helped train anti-poaching units in the area. Despite being a “remote, low governance area about the size of Yellowstone National Park” this twenty-two man, privately organized unit has effectively worked alongside the Mozambican army to help not only conserve wildlife populations but the community too. Wildlife in Coutada 11 felt strong negative impacts as a result of the Mozambican civil war. After the peace treaty was signed, only about “forty-four sable antelope and 1,200 cape–buffalo remained.”
Those populations have seen a complete turnaround, with current numbers of the same antelope rising to 2,400 and about 20,000 buffalo, in addition to being one of the only Mozambican areas which has seen a rise in the number of elephants. The rise in wildlife has been “directly attributed to the anti-poaching unit on the ground” that H.O.P.E. is supporting. The units acquisition of “two helicopters and a rapid reaction motorcycle force” has been a huge factor in the group’s effectiveness. Another key to success has been the institution of sustainable hunting programs that invest local people in wildlife conservation while creating jobs and decreasing the incentive to engage in criminal activity, like poaching.
H.O.P.E. has done similar work in the Dande Safari Area of Zimbabwe. This is a communal area managed “in partnership with the local community and a private safari concessionaire”. H.O.P.E. helps support another “twenty-two man unit in the Central Zambezi Valley.” Providing “primarily procurement services. Helping [the unit] obtain basic equipment to help them achieve their goals.”
Their newest and most bold effort yet is taking place in Ethiopia. H.O.P.E. is partnering with the Ethiopian Government to achieve a broad-based range of counter poaching and counter tracking efforts. Their work is beginning at the Babbile Elephant Reserve, in eastern Ethiopia. Work is starting here because it is home to “the only elephant herd left in the horn of Africa.” H.O.P.E. is excited to get their boots on the ground there in order to assess “what their needs are there, [to] bring some attention, new skill sets and capabilities to the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority.” Elephants are especially vulnerable to poaching in Eastern Africa as tracking routes run through the Ogaden Desert. Ethiopia’s Director General of Conservation Authority recently visited H.O.P.E. at Eastern Foundry while in the US for a business trip to further expand on their goals in the area.
It’s truly incredible to see our members find success in all avenues of life. Steve took skills from his decades of experience in the military, contracting, and government industry, and applied them to a passion of his outside of his normal business. Eastern Foundry is proud to be able to host members like Steve who lead in the contracting industry and humanitarian efforts as well. For more information about H.O.P.E., you can check out their website at www.saveivory.org.