I needed to put my boots on the ground and walk the line between the rhinos and the poachers…
As Operational Manager for the Anti-Poaching and K9 unit at Kariega Game Reserve, it’s a pleasure and a privilege to help wildlife especially as they can’t help themselves. I often meet guests and explain the role of the anti-poaching unit. It’s through their generous donations that we can keep patrolling to protect our wildlife.
I’d been a field guide at Kariega Game Reserve for four years and my days were spent taking guests out on game drives and showing them our beautiful wildlife-rich environment. One day I came across a rhino that had been brutally attacked for its horn. The scene before me was extremely upsetting. It was then that I decided I needed to transfer from being a guide and put my boots on the ground and walk the line between the rhinos and the poachers.
In South Africa in the first six months of 2021, 249 rhinos have sadly lost their lives to poaching. During lockdown we saw an increase in snare and meat poaching. To expand the areas we cover, we have recently created a mounted unit with patrols on horseback.
An important role of my job is to educate, so I give talks in schools and demonstrate how I work with the dogs. We welcome school groups to the reserve so that they can see the benefits of protecting the animals and their habitats for future generations.
One of the highlights of my job is when I have been the first one to find a new-born rhino calf in the reserve. This is even more poignant when we discover the mother is Thandi, a poaching survivor. Thandi’s story is very special. In 2012, sadly three rhinos were poached on Kariega. Thandi (meaning courage and to be loved in isiXhosi) was the only survivor. Since then, she has become a mother to four calves and is now also a grandmother.
It’s great that I can use my field guiding skillset to protect animals and their habitat. I can influence the level of safety for our wildlife and keep improving it. Being able to work with a K9 named Cyrus, is another great bonus of working in this job.
For every guest staying at Kariega there is a conservation contribution paid for each night of the stay. This is included in the rate and collected on behalf of the Kariega Foundation. These contributions not only support the vital work of Kariega’s Anti-Poaching Unit but also assists local community upliftment projects.
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