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SAWC appoints new head of ranger training

The Southern African Wildlife College extends a very warm welcome to Mr. Altin Gysman, the new head of its Protected Area Integrity Department, which includes its African Field Ranger Training Services Unit, its K9 Unit and its Aerial Support unit.


A new leader steps up to manage the training of aspirant and seasoned field rangers

The Southern African Wildlife College extends a very warm welcome to Mr. Altin Gysman, the new head of its Protected Area Integrity Department, which includes its African Field Ranger Training Services Unit, its K9 Unit and its Aerial Support unit. Gysman, with his strong leadership skills, takes over the reins on 1 November 2020 after a rigorous and open application process.

Since its inception the College has conducted field ranger training across the African region to meet the needs of the conservation industry. “Gysman is taking over a well-oiled machine, and one that he knows intimately given his excellent record of service at the College. We’re excited to have him in this role and know that both our students, and the conservation industry will benefit from this appointment,” said College CEO, Mrs. Theresa Sowry.

The unit has developed a well-earned reputation for supplying highly competent personnel to protected areas throughout the SADC region and further afield. When Gysman joined the College in January 2018 –  after being recruited by field ranger training stalwart and the then head of the unit, Mr Ruben de Kock –  he worked as a senior course leader and mentor. At the time Gysman trained field rangers in neighbouring Mozambique and lectured on Natural Resource Protection for Higher Education and Training students at the College.

Gysman’s background speaks for itself. Having hailed from the Eastern Cape, he joined the Southern African National Defence Force in September 1993, working his way up the leadership ranks to Second Lieutenant in July 1994. In 1996 he was selected to attend the Southern African Military Academy degree course where he achieved a B(Mil) Human Science at the Faculty of Military Science of the University of Stellenbosch. He also qualified in the Senior Management programme obtained from the University of Pretoria in 2015. His additional qualifications include the General Security Practice National Certificate as well as an Outcomes Based Education and Training National Certificate.

In his military tenure he was involved in leadership positions in United Nations and African Union Operations in Burundi (2000), Burundi (2005), Sudan (2006), Democratic Republic of Congo (2013/2014).

His outstanding leadership skills mean that he’s helped develop a new approach to ranger training through Braveheart, a ranger leadership development programme. This training curriculum for rangers has been developed by the College in association with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa, through its KHETA Programme, with the support of the International Development Agency (USAID). It develops skills in holistic leadership, conflict resolution, community engagement, negotiation and mediation, law enforcement ethics, and corruption mitigation. It’s affectionately known as Braveheart because it speaks to the ranger’s ethics, identity and emotional wellbeing; areas that purely tactical training may neglect. This was supported by the Ranger Perception Survey. Gysman is also currently working with Peace Parks Foundation on the KAZA Transfrontier Conservation Area Customs Training as well as Human Rights training.

Having held the position of Programmes Manager at the Protected Area Integrity Unit since March 2019, Gysman was officially appointed as the Acting Business Unit Head of the Protected Area Integrity Unit after the sad passing of the late Mr. Andy Davies on 23 August 2020.

“I know I am following in the footsteps of legends like Mr. Ruben de Kock and the late Mr Andy Davies. I have a very well balanced and professional team that uphold high training standards. I am confident I will be able to take the unit forward, with a firm focus on bringing out the potential of the men and women we train, to the ultimate benefit of Africa’s wildlife,” says Gysman.

The unit’s ethos has always been to provide strong, in house training to rangers to ensure students receive the most relevant and up-to-date training available. Its work has been fundamental to efforts to curb the current rhino poaching crisis, as well as to counter incursions within parks whilst also conducting law enforcement training across Africa and in areas as far afield as India, Bhutan, Cambodia, Myanmar and Georgia. Given the scope and depth of field ranger training provided by the College, the unit has also worked with the International Rangers Federation to take the lead in developing training materials in consultation with various experts to standardise and professionalise ranger training, at both a basic and advanced level across the region, shaping not just its students, but the future of the industry.