Heart of a Ranger

posted in: Rhino's 1

Heart of a Ranger

Leads 2 Business : Rhino love

With indemnity documents signed (and this never far from my mind), we set out on foot, into the bush of the Timbavati. Our intention to find and film the rhino in their natural habitat and to capture and experience first-hand, the day in a life of an anti-poaching unit, game ranger.

 

The two rangers, Anton and Orlat moved like ghosts through the undergrowth, treading as lightly as my frame would allow, I was as noisy as a bull elephant crashing through the undergrowth. The reserve is not a quiet place, it reverberates with the sound of life, burring insects, chattering birds and animal calls, my crashing about was spectacularly loud.

 

The air and heat are oppressive, as I crossed the dry river bed and clambered up the embankment through the thick brush up to the other side; I emptily promised myself I’d work on my fitness.

 

Our first rhino sighting was both magnificent and terrifying, you’d think for such a massive creature it would lumber along, not so! We stepped into a clearing and there was the rhino, a young male just a few meters away – the rangers indicated we must stand still and be quiet… the rhino was prancing about, clearly agitated, he had either heard or smelt us and was trying to locate us, they have dreadful eyesight but a keen sense of smell and excellent hearing. Never have I seen such a nimble, agile creature for all that bulk and I nervously thought that if he did figure out where we were and charge, the chances of getting away unscathed were horribly, horribly slim, he was unbelievably quick on its feet. Eventually he turned tail and bolted off into the thicket, much to my relief.

 

We continued and after what felt like several (thousand) kilometres, we came across a particularly thick bit of brush, Anton pointed to it, indicating that it was their camp; I peered into the dense undergrowth and… saw nothing. I thought they were having me on until he stepped forward and moved some of the brush aside – wow, talk about camouflage (or the untrained eye) but I could not believe that there was their camp!

 

For the rangers, remaining concealed is imperative, a poacher is familiar with the bush – he’s acclimatised and acutely aware of his surroundings… the rangers need adapt accordingly. Their shift lasts for two weeks at a time, no light, cell phone, radio, talking in muted tones, one meal a day, prepared only when the thermals are right so the scent of food won’t carry and trekking through hundreds of kilometres of bush with no sustenance other than a litre of water carried on their backs, even this, Orlat explained to me, needs to be used sparingly in case they get on the trail of a poacher, which may result in days of tracking, there’s no getting back to base camp for water, they must make do.

 

 

They take turns sleeping, listening for anything untoward or worse, for the dreaded sound of gunshots. Here too, they are at a distinct disadvantage, they must abide by the gun laws of this country, but for a poacher no gun law applies. The rangers need be sharp and sure-footed, or it literally will be the death of them.

In an effort to truly experience what dedication this calling takes, we decided (against all sanity) to embark on a night walk through the bush… If I thought the rangers were ghosts before, they now simply vanished into the darkness! Crashing about in the pitch black, we now sounded like a very large herd of panicked buffalo… easy pickings for anything lurking in the dark! There was no moon and for what seemed like hours of blind torture, tripping and stumbling over whatever lay in my path, my eyes began to adjust (my feet I feared, never would)… I could begin make out the shapes of the brush, eventually even the individual twigs on the branches. When I looked up into the night sky, all thoughts of my bashed ankles, stubbed feet and scratched arms dissipated, ah the wonder that met my eyes – I have never seen so many stars so clearly in the sky, what a breathtakingly beautiful sight!

 

Even in that brief time that I had to experience how the rangers live, I was astounded at my own adaptability, how my sixth sense kicked in, my sense of smell sharpened and how I could feel rather than hear the thuds made by the elephant.

 

It felt good to be alive out there, I’d sign 100 indemnity forms for the chance to experience that again, but for the anti-poaching rangers of the Timbavati Nature Reserve, this is it – this is real life they are the ones who have answered their calling and put their lives on the line daily, these are the true heroes and I hope their story carries across for the world to see.

 

 

 

 

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About Lee Finch

I started my journey at Leads 2 Business in 2004 as an account executive. In 2006 I moved over to MAPRO (Marketing, Advertising and PRO), and in 2012 I became a Director. It’s exceptionally rewarding being a part of the Leads 2 Business team. I’m incredibly proud of the achievements and business ethos and I’ve always firmly believed we offer a valuable service, fine-tuned to our subscriber needs. I am a Mom of two beautiful children, a lover of human interaction, laughter and light, sprinkled with a generous dose of fun.

Rhino dreaming in Timbavati

posted in: Rhino's 3

As a little girl I dreamt of fairies, dragons and unicorns. As I have grow up, (somewhat), perhaps the reality that I am unlikely to meet any of these characters becomes more entrenched in my psyche. Enter modern day scenario. I venture with some intrepid folks (our Marketing Director, Lee Finch and a film crew from Rooftop Productions) out to Timbavati Private Nature Reserve which hosts a marvelous spectrum of wildlife including the Big 5. The reason I am fortunate enough to find myself in this dream scenario is there are some unicorns that need help. The unicorns in this particular scenario are the rhino. More specifically, but not exclusively, the Black Rhino.

 

Chasing unicorns
Chasing unicorns

 

 

I can see the thought bubbles popping up above people’s heads – “those lumbering creatures?”. No sirree. Ever had a rhino sneak up on you? This creature can sneak with the best of them. A one and a half tonne sneak at that. I had exactly this happen while on foot with rangers in the field and was [tweetthis]privileged to watch a rhino going through the thought process of whether I presented a threat to it or not.[/tweetthis] I was much relieved when its curiosity was assuaged and it decided to nimbly trot off into the thick foliage.

But without beating around the bush (see what I did there?) let’s get to the point. Leads 2 Business as a Company, along with our subscribers have donated funds to the Anti-Poaching team protecting the Rhino and wildlife at Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. Unlike our National Parks, Private Nature Reserves do not have the benefit of subsidised funds, leaving the onus on the individual owners to maintain the Reserve and carry the costs incurred by doing this. Wildlife is something that Leads 2 Business is passionate about. Without this kind of effort from Timbavati, the next generation – being our children  – will be learning about Rhino’s in a Museum. This is certainly not something I would ever want to see; most especially after encountering these beautiful creatures in the wild.

 

 

Leads 2 Business : Adgar Picket Leads 2 Business : Adgar Picket

[tweetthis]With the funds that have been donated by Leads 2 Business, the Anti-Poaching guards now have rooms to rest their weary bodies[/tweetthis] in when they return from being deployed in the bush for a week to ten days at a time. Funds also supplemented the kitchen equipment making it easier to cook food. I am a little envious of the super herb and vegetable garden growing in the fenced camp. In addition to this, two bicycles have been added for the rangers to make use of.

 

Rooftop in action
Rooftop in action

 

In order to lend more support to anti poaching and make people more aware of what is happening, a film crew was appointed to come and tell the story of the Anti Poaching rangers and their struggle in protecting our unicorns and the wildlife around them. Sitting around a fire while listening to the game outside of the small lit area suddenly makes things seem a lot more real. I get pulled in while the rangers tell of their daily duties and how passionate they are about protecting their friends. Anton mentions how they almost seem to call the animals with their friendship and as sparks from the fire fly up into the night air (perfect timing) I can almost imagine the wildlife sitting beyond the limits of my vision waiting for their ranger friends to return. Orlat talks about how they have sometimes found herds of elephants encamped around their tents at night or rhino alongside them.

A couple of Timbavati members have decided to camp out with the rangers for the evening and we all decide that we will walk (guided by Anton and Orlat) to their camp and back. It isn’t far, but believe me when I say it must have been the noisiest walk in the bush in the history of walks ever. Suddenly you realise how it feels to walk without light. You are willing your eyes to adjust and let in more light, but until they do, walking into shrubs and tripping over logs seems to be the order of the evening. I have such respect for the rangers.

Imagine …. you are in complete darkness with no additional lighting to give away your position in the wild. You hear shots fired. You must, in an instant, decide which direction the sound came from, communicate with your partner and run full tilt with weapon ready with a strong likelihood that you will be fired upon by trained poachers before you can defend either yourself or potentially the wildlife. Sorry, did I mention all this in the pitch dark?

It is such a privilege meeting these men that put themselves between the poachers and the wildlife on a daily basis. Every day brings new danger and yet, they remain steadfast and courageous in the face of an increasing battle.

 

Action
Action

 

The last night going to sleep in my tent I hear a leopard calling not far from camp. I suddenly know that I don’t want to leave this place. This otherworld haven. Where the wildlife can roam and live their lives within the protection of people passionately fighting for their survival. I have a newfound love for these creatures. Much like the fantasy creatures of my younger years. [tweetthis]The only difference is, we are fighting to prevent them being erased from this world to only be captured in book and stories. #WorldRhinoDay[/tweetthis]

If you feel the same way, you can get in contact with Timbavati and find out more on how you can be involved by clicking on this link. Keep your eyes peeled for the video to be released later this year.

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About Carmen Barends

Social Media adventurer exploring new frontiers and learning how to survive. Tongue in cheek and mischief are the order of any good day topped with a sprinkling of laughter.