Irish wildlife activist killed in Burkina Faso with two journalists

Rory Young was co-founder of an international anti-poaching organisation

The Irish citizen who died with two Spanish journalists after an armed ambush on an anti-poaching patrol near a nature reserve in eastern Burkina Faso has been named locally as Rory Young.

Mr Young was the co-founder and president of an anti-poaching organisation called Chengeta.

The three foreigners and a member of the Burkinabe armed forces went missing on Monday after a morning attack on a convoy of security forces, forest rangers and expatriates, according to the Burkinabe government.

Chengeta’s website describes Mr Young as Zambian-born, saying he was an “expert tracker with amazing knowledge, skills and highly developed intuition” and “one of the best in his field”.


“He has dedicated his life to wildlife protection and he co-authored A Field Manual for Anti-Poaching Activities, a guide that provides workable solutions to poaching,” it says.

The journalists were named as David Beriain (44) and Roberto Fraile (47).

Burkina Faso’s government on Tuesday confirmed that three foreigners were killed in the ambush the previous day.

Chengeta’s website says it aims to “pioneer an intelligence-driven approach to anti-poaching: We equip rangers with the proactive and reactive investigations, apprehension and tracking-pursuit skills they need to anticipate, locate and apprehend poachers.”

Burkina Faso is not listed as one of the countries that the organisation currently has projects in, but a tweet by the organisation, from earlier this month, showed rangers carrying out cross fit exercises in the country, as part of a physical evaluation.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said it “continues to closely follow unfolding developments in Burkina Faso. The situation is complex and officials are working with relevant actors on the ground, including Spanish and EU colleagues, to ensure that the full facts are established and followed up on as a matter of urgency.

“The department has been in contact with the family of the Irish citizen and is providing all possible consular support. As with all consular cases, it would be not appropriate to comment on specific details of the case at this time.”

A member of the Burkinabe armed forces is still missing, according to reports.

Two other soldiers shot in the daytime attack said the group had been outnumbered and attacked by jihadists, who took the foreigners away with them, according to Associated Press interviews with the men. They are now in a military hospital in capital city Ouagadougou.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.

Burkina Faso, like much of West Africa’s Sahel region, faces a deepening security crisis as groups with links to al-Qaeda and Islamic State carry out attacks on the army and civilians, despite help from French and UN forces.

Insurgents are believed to be holding a number of foreign hostages in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

“Burkina Faso’s really been falling apart, fast, in a stunningly brief amount of time. This is just another example of that,” said Michael Shurkin, an analyst who focuses on West Africa.

“The country has always been trumpeted as an island of stability… It turns out all us analysts had the country wrong all along, and it was ripe for disaster.”

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa