Damien Mander (born 11 December 1979 in Mornington, Australia) is an anti-poaching activist and the founder of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF). He is a former Australian Royal Navy Clearance Diver and Special Operations military sniper.
Mander used his life savings and liquidated his investments and assets to fund the start-up and running costs of the IAPF which seeks to protect wildlife from poaching. He is also a director of the Conservation Guardians.
An environmental and animal welfare activist, Mander believes that animals should be protected for both ethical and environmental reasons. He is a vegan and has given talks against human encroachment on wilderness areas.
Mander joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1999 at age 19, where he trained and qualified as a Naval Clearance Diver. In 2003 he was selected for the Tactical Assault Group (East), an elite direct-action and hostage-recovery unit within the Australian Army’s Special Forces 2nd Commando Regiment, as a special operations sniper.
Mander then spent three years in Iraq working for several Private Military Organisations concerned with the protection of Australian diplomats, and was involved in the training of Iraqi Police.
Mander went on to project-manage the Iraqi Special Police Training Academy in northern Baghdad, where up to 700 cadets at a time received paramilitary training. The Civilian Police Assistance Training Team (CPATT) project, made up of multinationals, was part of the US-led coalition’s effort to develop the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and its Forces.
Mander also worked alongside the US Army’s Corps of Engineers involved with Iraq’s reconstruction efforts. His responsibility was to protect key personnel and to conduct reconnaissance missions on key infrastructure across Iraq.
Mander left Iraq in 2008.
After learning about poaching in Southern Africa and the criminal networks that used military equipment to poach for profit, Mander was convinced that his specialised military skills, personal finances, and experience could contribute significantly to wildlife protection and conservation.
Working as a volunteer with an anti-poaching unit in the Zambezi National Park (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe), Mander gained first-hand experience of anti-poaching work and the effect of poaching on wildlife. He began writing training packages that would later form the basis of the IAPF’s ranger training course.
International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF)
Using his life savings and funds raised from the liquidation of his investment properties acquired through nine years of military service and private military employment, Mander founded the International Anti-Poaching Foundation in 2009. He personally funded the start-up and initial running costs, built a ranger training academy at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and bought a two-seater aircraft as well as vehicles for anti-poaching work.
With the mission statement “To protect and preserve wildlife in volatile regions,” the International Anti-Poaching Foundation focuses on ranger training, operations, and integrating modern technology and solutions (such as drone/UAV technology) for conservation.
The foundation aims to provide ranger training free of charge and is funded through public donations, grants, and fundraising activities.
The IAPF has operated in South Africa, Australia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, and is becoming increasingly well known for establishing crack anti-poaching units by putting locals through specialist tactical training programs.