Head of our task team is Sergeant Lourens, Lourens has 2 years military experience he was picked quickly to join The Protrack Rhino Task Team. Lourens says “working for the task team is amazing I have a lot of passion for my job, although it’s very demanding, you need to think quick on your feet 24/7 and you can’t let your guard down once.”
After 24hs of patrolling and being sleep deprived I can imagine motivation can be a hard thing to find, Lourens says he gets his motivation from all the Rhino Autopsies he does “when I see what they do to these animals it motivates me and I would like my kids to see a rhino one day, in the wild.”
Lourens’s job ranges from every-thing, looking for spoor, Infiltration's, road blocks, stopping and checking suspicious vehicles, encouraging people to give information, Foot patrols, Vehicle Patrols, Presence patrols and more.
I asked Lourens what he thinks the public think about the task team as he spends a lot of time talking to the public during road blocks and other operations, he said “I think being so visible now, they can see we are trying to make a difference, they don't always see what’s going on in the bush, but now people can see what we are doing now we are on the roads. People always thank us for our job and tell us we are doing well, on a regular basis and it’s nice to hear. People definitely respect us for what we do”
Being an anti-poacher sounds pretty scary, even though Lourens has 2 years military experience, I still had to ask him if he's ever felt his life has been in danger, Lourens said he tends not think like that, he focuses on the job in hand and follows the training he was given.
As everyone can see on Protrack’s Facebook page the training course looks very difficult physically and mentally Lourens described his training as very interesting, tracking for spoor was his favorite part as he was inexperienced in tracking wildlife, he said the more you work in the bush the better your tracking is. Physically he found the course fitted him well, he prepared well before joining so he was ready for the challenges ahead.
Lourens enjoys his job very much he said “my favorite part is being called out to a farm and all it takes is our presence that either prevents them from coming in or makes them leave, obviously this is not always the case.”
Since Lourens has worked for Protrack he has made 18 arrests from meat poachers, unlicensed fire arms and theft and many rhino poachers
I asked Lourens if he thinks we are going to win against the poachers he said “not at this rate, we are not going to win if people don’t invest more. At the moment we are just delaying them from doing their job”
Lourens is a great leader for our task team and he has proven that with the successful operations has conducted.
Over the last few years England and the USA have been watching more about rhino poaching in newspapers and documentaries, being from England myself, what I learnt from British TV was very little compared to what we all should know – Rhinos are being poached for the horns and the horns are being sold to china as they believe it cures all their illnesses – is that really all?
In November 2014 I came to visit my family in Hoedspruit “Protrack Anti-Poaching Unit” in the two weeks I was here I learnt more from Vincent Barkas and Zayne Barkas than any other TV program or Newspaper article that had I read.
I learnt that rhinos are not being killed, they are being slaughtered and in the most brutal ways possible, sometimes the rhinos are still alive when they cut off the horns from their head – can you imagine being that rhino?
There is currently a war between the poacher and the anti-poacher, and yes it’s a war, people are dying trying to save or poach the horn, it probably sounds strange to other countries that people are dying to save animals, but does it? Did you grow up with these beautiful animals in your life?
As the world can see, everyone now wants to “save the rhinos” but in November I noticed it’s not just a passion, and it’s not just about animal rights it’s about saving this country. It feels impossible for me to explain how much the rhino actually means to South Africans, but you’ll see when you hear people talking about poaching, or you will see it in the emotion in someone’s eyes, you can tell that these animals are a part of who they are.
When I was younger, I used to go to school and learn about England, its history of kings and queens, the wars that we fought and the men we lost – In South Africa, children are raised learning about the animals in their country. They are raised around animals and they have many opportunities to witness these animals in their natural habitat, whether in Kruger National Park or even in the comfort of their own homes where the animals approach within arms reach. Most of the people I know in this country are still amazed by every animal they see, Vincent Barkas(Founder of Protrack Rhino Task Team) being one of them, he’s seen a lot of animals in his life and still to this day he can’t get enough of them – you would think that to a South African, animals are just the every day norm, they are a part of your daily life and routine, you see an animal and move on with your day like normal ….that’s not how it is here. They see the animal, then stop and observe the animal in its beauty until it moves on, and then they tell all their friends about the experience they have just had.
You see animals here are not just animals, they are a part of the people, they are a part of their life, they are a part of childhood and adulthood it’s what this country is worth, is there anything in your country you value so highly that if it was gone, you would feel like you just lost a part of your home? Here in South Africa, people value the animals. The way people talk about poaching is as if Africa wouldn’t be Africa without animals – but it’s true.
Losing the rhino will lead to so much more than people realise. If all the rhinos are poached there will be other animals that get poached next. People come to Africa to see the animals, Africa’s tourism makes a lot of money for the country as does any tourism in any country so we shouldn’t say “Rhinos are being killed In Africa” we should say “there is a war in Africa between poachers and anti-poachers” because anti poachers are literally dying saving their country just as much as England did in its own wars.
I once heard on a documentary that South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and the first time I came here, I was 15 I fell in love with this magnificent place and it’s true, it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, now I’m here again and I want to save the beauty of Africa, because without our rhinos or the next animal on the poachers list, how beautiful would it be, animals are part of the landscapes, animals are a part of the land, animals are a part of the people, animals are a part of Africa so help save the rhino before the poachers list gets longer and Africa becomes nothing but another country you once knew to have animals wild and free.
Kim Belding - Director
Other stories coming up soon!!