Q. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came into the roll as unit commander of an anti-poaching unit just outside Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Started my wildlife career in 1986 after studying in Pretoria doing a National diploma in Nature Conservation. Prior to this, I was in the military and did active service in South West Africa (now Namibia) and operational in Angola. Early career began in the famous Hluhluwe and Umfolozi game reserves in Zululand, working for the then Natal Parks Board, where I was blooded to all aspects of reserve management. So my anti-poaching career kicked off here in the oldest game reserves in Southern Africa. Here I had a mounted section situated at a remote outpost and covered these vast areas on horseback and foot, together with my Zulu rangers. In 1992, I moved north to the Limpopo province and made my new home in a small town Hoedspruit adjacent to the Kruger National Park. Here I started a Wildlife management business selling services to the private game industry.
Q. For anti-poaching units like yours, having adequate resources to help fight the illegal trade of rhino horns is always a challenge. What do you need to help level the playing field?
We need good equipment. This motivates my staff and adds to better morale and esprit de corps. However, their salaries are not great, so we need operational money to boost this, in the way of bonuses to incentivize them. This is very critical, as they are easily lured to better offers from other reserves or to the poaching syndicates.
Q. Intel is an important part of knowing how to best fight the enemy in any war. Without divulging too much information, has it worked for you?
As mentioned earlier – we need good reliable intel. There is info and there is info. Most times the info is too vague and loose, yet we have to respond, and on most occasions they are false alarms. Two successful incidents were from good intelligence.
Q. The rhinos on the Blue Canyon Conservancy are de-horned. Tell us why, how often it is done, does it hurt the animal in any way and the approximate cost for each de-horning.
Dehorning – done every two years. Also a costly exercise at ± R10 000 – R15 000.00 per rhino. We feel by removing the asset, they have a better chance of survival, and our results have proven this. No harm to the animal, simply like pruning their nails. No change in any behaviour as well. Been doing it on Blue Canyon since 2011.