Raw For Africa

I’ve spent a lot of time in war-torn countries and a lot of time fighting in wars,” says Damien Mander – founder of IAPF (International Anti-Poaching Foundation), “but seeing animals killed for no other reason than for profit has probably hit me harder than anything.” Poaching – the illegal hunting of wildlife – is the third largest criminal industry in the world after drugs and human trafficking. All ticket proceeds from the IAPF’s annual fundraising music festival, Raw For Africa, will go towards wildlife conservation and saving endangered species through Mander’s not-for-profit organisation. In Zimbabwe, Mander witnessed first-hand the devastation of poaching, which led to a rejuvenated life mission: “It was a very simple and rapid decision to basically devote the rest of my life to protecting wildlife – defending the unprotected.”


“We need to create awareness and we need to create it now, because tomorrow is going to be too late,” Mander stresses. “If we don’t have the awareness, we’re not going to get the support. 37,000 African elephants a year are killed for their ivory; black rhinos have gone from 100,000 in 1960 down to 2,500. There’s just insatiable desire from the Far East for these products; that’s just to name two animals. There’s hundreds and thousands of animals across the world that are being hunted for various products. We need global awareness and a global movement towards protecting these animals and working for a sustainable future. And it needs to happen now.”


The inspiration behind Raw For Africa was birthed six years ago. The idea flourished last year when Mander invited friends through Facebook, resulting in 1000 attendees and $35,000 for the vital cause. “This year, we’ve really stepped it up and got the awareness out there of what’s going on. We need to tell people about the issue that we’re trying to support, so we’ve made it public this year. We’ve already sold a few thousand tickets and we’re expecting tickets to go well again this week, so I think we’ll get a sell-out of 5,000 people, which will be great.


“It’s only been able to happen because we have a committee of 20 people – all volunteers – that have been working for the last three months to get this off the ground and these 20 people have been able to get everything from the local community to donate for this event. It’s going to be the biggest fundraising event on the Mornington Peninsula – I see this, in a year or two years time, being the largest ongoing fundraising event in Australia.”


All bar profits on the day will be donated to the RSPCA’s wildlife rehabilitation unit in Queensland – which was washed away in the floods – an organisation that the IAPF have formed a strong alliance with.


Dallas Frasca – powerhouse performer and winner of the MusicOz Artist Of The Year Award – will also be headlining Raw For Africa. The dynamic roots-rock singer-songwriter will be joined by a string of exciting bands including Red Ink, The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats, The Dirty Boogie Band, The Resignators, The Sophisticants, Ben Smith Band, Tub O Vas and Guesswork. “I’m very excited about the event but at the same time, I’m very cautious and conscious of what we’re doing it for and understand that after the event we still have a long way ahead of us,” says the IAPF founder.


Mander formed the International Anti-Poaching Foundation in 2009 and has since formed very close relationships with local authorities in other organisations within Zimbabwe and sub-Saharan Africa. “We’ve now branched out into South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia ... we’re sending a team into India this year and another team to Siberia,” Mander relates. “It was a tough initial step but it’s a lot of smaller organisations and individuals that are coming under one umbrella and creating a movement for wildlife protection. So it’s given everyone a focal point to get behind and move forward with.”


Two of the IAPF’s primary objectives for 2011 are the building of two ranger training facilities in Zimbabwe and South Africa. “We train our rangers up to a very high standard,” Mander emphasises. “I was a former Project Manager for the Iraq National Police Training Academy where we were training Iraqi SWAT units, and I’ve been able to bring those skills to Zimbabwe and now around the region. “We’re also retraining them in an ethical way; we’re teaching them how to display a use of force, and use of force means they have to show a set of challenge procedures before using lethal force. This is a new concept for countries where there is a ‘shoot on sight’ policy for anyone armed inside a national park; so as well as saving wildlife, we’re saving people. We’re also training them to such a standard that they’re generally able to take charge of a situation before it gets out of hand. Training rangers is one side of the work that we do; there are a lot of veterinary rescuers that work for us and we also focus strongly on school-placed education. Education is the answer, but that’s going to take a generation or two.”


Although Mander acknowledges the generosity of Australians in donating to causes, he also admits that the country has a lot to learn. “Australians aren’t completely aware of what is taking place around the world, and they’re not completely aware because nobody’s been able to stand up and display it as it should be displayed,” he conveys. “Despite the fact that there are no rhinos or elephants running around in our backyard, these aren’t Africa’s animals – these are the world’s animals and they belong to us all.”


The International Anti Poaching Foundation’ (IAPF) family fundraising event, RAW FOR AFRICA takes place at the Mornington Racing Club on January 29 from 12 noon. It will help raise funds to help protect Africa’s wildlife from illegal trafficking, and will feature Dallas Frasca, Red Ink, President Roots, The Resignators, Quarry Mountain Dead Rats , Blessing Ceremony, Rob Sawyer, Dirty Boogie Band, Ben Smith Band, Tub O Vas, Love Proof, Guess Work, Rhys Crimmin, The Sophisticants and more. Tickets and info from rawforafrica.com.au and oztix.com.au.