Piet VD Merwe - a geniune servant of conservation; charming, knowledgable and a warming sense of humor.
It's a full-scale war here in the bush. Poachers are heavily armed, fearless and brazen. They are better equipped than ever before, backed by high-value intelligence and a sophisticated international multi-country syndicate that funds and coordinates the violent and merciless assault on our rhinos.
It is but the poacher and the end user that are the blunt ends of this deadly instrument, for both the poacher and consumer proceed oblivious to the grand scheme.
Standing between the defenseless rhino, and all other threatened species, are a group of individuals who had once followed their passion for conservation, have now been flung into what can only be described as a multi-disciplinary military scenario.
“It is a war of attrition, where poaching is a means to escape dire economic and impoverished conditions”
Enter the honorary ranger. A familiar face in new territory. With great humility, they describe themselves as public volunteers in broader conservation effort, though any time spent time with an honorary ranger quickly reveals the extensive knowledge base and skill set they lend to the cause.
Even a scant understanding of the costs and dynamics of anti-poaching leads one to a greater appreciation of the fundraising and public awareness roles fulfilled by honorary rangers.
“Their experience and knowledge of the bush, flora and fauna alike makes an invaluable contribution to the tourism and education initiatives that support conservation services, and in particular the anti-poaching campaign”
Having spent many hours with these and other honorary rangers on bush walks, game drives and around campfires, I have always parted company feeling humbled, enthused and all-around enlightened.