“Conservation Heroes”

DSC_1880 (1)Recent months have been a difficult time for many reserves in the Lowveld as they have strived to combat the scourge of the poaching epidemic sweeping through South Africa. Its a human disgrace. Nyumbani Estate is proud of the work undertaken by our anti-poaching team and is proud of it’s association and support of Rhino Revolution, the charitable foundation that has done much to support the work of the Reserve’s AP Team. The team currently have their operational base on the Nyumbani Estate property where we provide stabling for their horses also used in anti-poaching patrols.

But for many people, especially those outside of Africa, the story of these men and women across South Africa that risk their own lives in support of our wildlife, is largely unknown. What follows is an all to common story in many reserves in South Africa, it’s not any one specific reserve, but the story is commonly recounted around the Lowveld towns. From the anti-poaching heroes perspective, here’s what it feels like to to be a part of their world ….

“A loud “crack” pierces the still of the African night …. clearly audible are the high pitched screams from an animal taking it’s last breath. Their resounding echo chills you to the bone and a hushed silence now prevails around the bush. Another statistic is added to the greatest scourge in conservation in our lifetimes, another rhino lies dead, brutally mutilated for the sake of man’s greed. One more step is taken towards extinction by the last truly prehistoric mammal on African soil … the Black Rhino and White Rhino will soon be merely a book reference or “Google search” for the next generation of our children. It’s a conservation disaster, it’s a human disgrace.”

“A group of hardened, “DSC_2031battle scarred” men have spent the cold night searching the thick impenetrable bush, the least of their worries are the lions who lurk in the shadows watching their every move, another kind of predator, the human kind, is still out there and to avoid capture they will kill in a heartbeat. Early morning, tired and cold, our weary men come across the butcher’s shop left behind by the poachers. It’s a scene indescribable to civilized people. In the centre of the blood soaked earth lies the bloated remains of last night’s victim, a fDSC_2036emale white rhino. She died in agony at the hands of the poachers axe, her hysterical calf lies trying to suckle from her lifeless body. It’s a pittiful sight, but not an uncommon one to these men who are fighting a war on the ground in the name of “conservation” and whose every effort and sacrifice goes largely un-noticed by the rest of the world.”

While “politicians” debate the merits of Trade versus Anti-Trade, while landowners squabble over the merits of retaining rhino stock on their reserves and quibble over the budgets required to protect their animals, there is a group of men who selflessly risk their lives in the name of conservation. They go largely un-noticed, largely unappreciated and lay their life on the line to protect Africa’s iconic wildlife for a modest paycheck. It’s time that these guys get their moment in the spotlight ….. the men and women who protect our reserves, care for our wildlife, protect our lodges and homes. Thousands of people the world over reel daily at the horrors of poaching splashed across social media. The mutilated animal images have become common place. It’s time we honour those people who put their life on the line daily to support our ideals of conservation, who do the job most of us wouldn’t dream of doing and whose level of professionalism is largely unappreciated. They are the faces that you don’t see on social media.

DSC_1596Recently, I spent a day with the Anti-Poaching Team on the Blue Canyon Conservancy at their operational base on Nyumbani Estate. By anyone’s measure, it was a hot day!! For the guys in the team, about to undertake one of their regular training exercises, it was about to get much hotter!! What immediately strikes you is the level of dedication and professionalism of the team. As the poaching syndicates have increased in sophistication, so have the training demands on the team in order that they can stay on step ahead in the war on poaching. Training exercises during the day were mentally and physically testing.

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Good old fashioned drill, which many people will remember from military service days, still remains the hallmark for instilling discipline and teamwork within the unit. It was clearly a matter of personal pride for the team that they completed the drills efficiently and with a demonstration of team work that the military themselves would have been proud.

The team are all professionally accredited and approved by the South African Police Service for firearms use. It should be remembered of course that the use of firearms is only for their own personal protection. In South Africa, poachers are apprehended to be dealt with by the legal system. There is on “shoot on sight” policy whicDSC_1604 (1)h whilst being humanitarian, provides scant protection to the AP units in the field who have to be fired upon first before they can return fire. It is because of this that these training exercises need to focus on the ability to operate covertly in the bush and to apprehend offenders before an animal is harmed and before human lives are in danger. Being stretched physically and mentally, and then having to do your job in apprehending poachers is a truly admirable and brave skill in itself. It’s testament to the quality of training, the ability to gather quality intelligence and the level of skill within the teams themselves that nearly all incursions are defused before firearms are used in anger.

Land owners, home owners, and lodge owners within the Blue Canyon Conservancy have a huge debt to pay to the team. Their operational efficiency and the outstanding professionalism ensures our homes, our investment, our lives and our wildlife remain safe. They ask for little in return, but our respect and our support especially when the team is in need of small inexpensive equipment items is a small price to pay. If you can help and are willing to help in any way drop me a line here at Nyumbani Estate.

“Everyone associated with Nyumbani Estate are proud of each and every one of you. We salute the real heroes of wildlife conservation”

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