WATCH: US military veterans fighting rhino poachers in South Africa

2018-02-27 18:00 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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White rhino calf with mother. (Photo: Henk Kruger/ ANA)

Cape Town - US military veterans are putting their combat skills to good use, protecting rhinos from poachers in South Africa.

Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife (VetPaw) founder Ryan Tate‚ a former Marine‚ came up with the idea after watching a documentary on poaching. 

“I saw a rhino with its face cut off‚ how they tranquilised the animal and put it to sleep. I cried for a good five days and decided 'hey‚ there are more important things in life than making money'‚” says Tate.

With the rhino populations in South Africa always danger from poaching, VETPAW is a group of post 9/11 US veterans that hope to change that. 

After watching the documentary, Tate formed an outfit which harnesses the skills of former US soldiers to train‚ assist and advise rangers in counter-poaching operations.

What's unique about these highly trained former soldiers is that they “run towards the sound of gunfire”‚ not away from it, says Tate. 

ALSO SEE: How SA's young Environmental Monitors are fighting wildlife crimes

Rhino Shield‚ an award-winning short documentary‚ shows the work these former soldiers are doing in South Africa.

“I don’t want to brag or anything but hopefully some of the most dangerous people on the planet are now protecting these animals that poachers are trying to get to,” says one of the team leaders in the documentary. 

“When I returned to civilian life after the Marine Corps‚ I lost myself. I didn’t really know what I was here for‚” says Tate.

Tate joined the US military after 9/11 attack. Years later he was moved by the atrocities of elephant and rhino poaching‚ and the devastation it was having on East African communities.

Aware that many highly skilled US veterans were unemployed when they returned to 'life in a civilian setting'‚ Tate says he saw an opportunity for them to serve in a different capacity.

Watch the short documentary below:

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