Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Anti-Poaching Training Continued

4th,5th and 6th

For these next three days, we learnt more about tracking, how to report incidents to H.Q using the radio, and way points on the GPS. So we all practised using the radio, which was quite fun. Don’t think H.Q was enjoying it too much though, because we all had a chance to radio in a report, and there were a lot of mistakes..
We were given some time to mend and sew our kit bags and uniform, my sewing skills improving rapidly


Today was quite exciting, we were busy listening to lectures at the training camp and there was an emergency need for backup on one of the farms just outside Hoedspruit (some rhino poachers were spotted and were trying to get away), so we all jumped on the back of the reaction bakkie and headed of to the fence line.
We were all dropped off about a kilometre apart and waited ambush along the fence line, waiting to see if they try to leave the farm. We were all very excited!!! Hearts racing, and eyes piercing into the bush. It’s a pity the poachers didn’t come through this side of the fence as there were a lot of adrenalin filled trainees dying to catch our first poacher.

8th, 9th and 10th

We were all sent to a new farm, a farm that had never had any sort of anti-poaching unit on it.
So we were pretty sure there would be some poaching activity, but all we could find there for the next three days was evidence that there were poachers on the farm, but hadn’t been there for a couple of weeks, we didn’t find any snares but a few carcasses that had clearly been poached.
On the one night we were staying in a very dense part of the bush, with lots of vines going up into the canopy,so we decided we would try climbing them and swing from tree to tree.
So im at the top of this tree, and corporal swings across on a vine to another tree, so I follow him and mid swing, the vine gives out a large crack!!! It snapped halfway across!!! My heart literally stopped, I managed to grab onto the trunk of the tree, Corporal grabbing my shirt saving me from a nice plunge to the ground(about 8 or 9 meters up)
I didn’t climb or swing on the vines again : )
On the tenth we got back from the farm in the afternoon and went and joined the police to do a roadblock on the main road going out of Hoedspruit.
We got to search cars and look hardcore with our camo uniforms and guns, all in all pretty awesome!


We all woke up at the training camp, pretty late in the morning, Corporal didn’t take it too lightly, we were made to run 7 kilometers with no shoes!!! All I can say is that most of us were on the verge of killing corporal! KILLING CORPORAL!!!! What a shit morning!


We had a pretty relaxed day, we helped build Corporals new Barracks, ran 7.5 kms, did some ambush tactics and night ops! All very cool!

13th and 14th

We went to go and do a sweep on a new farm, learnt how to search in formation.
We then did some survival exercises, like making bird traps, and water collecting methods.

15th, 16th and 17th

We were put on a farm just outside Klaserie, where we did some night ambushing, and searching for fishing poachers.
But we found out that the land owner was using bait to attract the leopards and then letting foreigners shoot the leopards, so we decided that we weren’t going to work on this farm again.


Today was a pretty tough day, one of the hardest days!
We woke up did our drills and obstacle course, then ran 7kms, we were then sent to the office to do some weapons training (awesome) we learnt to clean and take apart an uzi, pump action shot gun, an LM6 and a Mini Ruger! All very cool!
But then we had what they call “OPFOK” which is basically we get drilled and made to run seven k's with tyres on a pole, which were flipping heavy! Damn it was a really shit afternoon for all of us.
After our OPFOK we were given some braai meat and cooldrinks, which were AMAZING!!! As we hadn’t eaten any meat since we started the course.

19th to the 24th

We were put on a farm ( I cant mention any of the farms names) but this farm had recent Rhino poaching activity, we saw our first snared rhino, which was pretty disgusting! It was snared by the foot and clearly suffered! It made us all pretty enfuriated, and reminded us why we are doing this job.
Now the farm was a big five farm, so there are lions and other predators all around, quite exciting but you never walk around on your own.. We didn’t actually see any of the Lions, but we saw some massive spoor, quite glad we didn’t see the lion.
When staying on a big five farm we have to make a boma to stay in otherwise you are literally just waiting to be eaten by some nocturnal predator. Every little noise in the night is like “what was that”, lying there in your sleeping bag listening to all sorts of creatures and animals coming to smell and see who we are.


We went to moholoholo for some lectures and to see some of the rehabilitated animals.


We went and searched around the moholohlo reserve for snares, as payment for our lectures yesterday. Two guys who were from Holland joined us on our patrol, they wanted to see what we do and how we operate.
They were in for a big shock, they were exhausted after our day of patrolling, what we don’t realise is that we are actually really fit and have got a lot stronger over the past couple of weeks.
The two guys from Holland were really appreciative and told us that we really do work real hard to find these snares, and that anti poaching isn’t as easy as it sounds.
This instantly made us all feel really good!

27th to the 1st

We were given training for our first aid level 3 course. We all had to learn a thick book of procedures and medical terms.
After four days of lectures we were made to do practical exams and on the 1st of the month we did our written examination!


Woke up this morning and were told to pack our kit bags and get our P.T kits on and jump on the bakkie, they drove us 27kilometres out of town and dropped us of and told us to run back to town! So we all ran and ran and ran and ran! And 5 kms outside of Hoedspruit we were given our fully loaded Kit bags and told to run the last 5kms with our Kit bags!
What a day! But this was the last and final test, we had completed our training! What a relief!

Im sorry I couldn’t go into more detail about the training, but if I told you guys everything, id probably have to write a small novel!
I hope you enjoyed reading about what were doing, we now have seven days off to relax and then we come back to Hoedspruit to do our first 16 day patrol! Once I have finished my 16 day patrol I will post some Pics and a write up of how it went and what we got up to!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Training - The Beginning

Okay, so my training is complete, and it was completely different to what I was expecting!

I always knew that there would be a fair bit of physical and mental training, but I was definitely not ready for what was to come. Here is how it all began.
We arrived the afternoon before the course started, just to get ready and meet some of the other anti poachers. At our head quarters (directly next to the South African Air force base) we just relaxed and watched helicopters buzzing around in the distant sunset, and got a good nights sleep under the stars not far from HQ.

2nd June , day one.
We walk down to HQ and meet some of the other trainees, got issued our uniforms, boots, sleeping bags and ration packs. Our kit bags now weighing around 25 kgs. Not light at all!! So were all dressed in our uniforms, heads shaved, looking like fresh recruits. We are told to march to the training camp with all our kit, (the training camp being 4 kilometres away) now were walking with 25kgs on our backs and old army boots that aren't very comfortable as they are shaped to someone else's feet. Walking 4kms with a 25kg kit bag doesn't sound too hard but it was hell! Real hell! Some trainees being pushed to boiling point already, but still pushing on. Very funny to watch This was definitely a wake up call for all of us as we all started to realised that this course was going to be very military like and we weren't as fit as we thought we were...

3rd June Our first morning at the training camp was very different to a morning in the city, mainly because I used to sleep through the morning and wake up pretty late (my mom used to love that...) So we wake up at 5am after sleeping on the ground on a great winters night... Feeling not so fresh, we collect wood and make a fire to boil some water for coffee, during our coffee we polish our boots ready for drills. 7am-drills. Drilling is basically learning how to march, now at 7:00 in the morning in winter, it's not very enjoyable. Especially as we were drilling like a bunch of spastic penguins and being punished for swinging our arms when turning during a drill. Punishment is being told to 'FLY!'. Flying being- running around the parade ground flapping your arms. Hilarious to watch! Not so fun to do though. 8am - Obstacle course. This is no ordinary obstacle course, this is one hell of an obstacle course, I hope to post a video soon, just pressured for time at the moment. I'm not going to tell you about the obstacle course as I don't think i'll do it any justice, you are just going to have to wait for the video.

Okay so the hardest part of the day is over , now for some snares, they taught us all of the different types of snares, traps nets etc. They also teach us what a poachers kitchen looks like. A poachers kitchen is basically an area under a tree hidden well, where meat from poached animals is butchered and dried and later collected. We are taught what to do when we find snares or any other recent poaching activity. We have to lie in ambush near the snared area, where we will lie in wait for up to 3 days in dead silence, waiting for the poacher to come and collect his meat. Now for some tracking , we are getting taught how to track by a former Rhodesian army tracker. Tracking is quite difficult, but I think our tracking skills will improve as time goes on and we start to adjust to the bush. We then went for some basic survival skills training, like making a fire with one match using an ant mound.

We also learn how to set up a bivy (basically a rain/dew poncho) which protects us from the elements. We are then taught how to bone and polish our army boots, doing this is a mission! You have to put polish on your boot, heat up a spoon until it's red hot, then proceed on ironing out the creases in the boot. But the spoon stays hot for about ten seconds so it takes ages to bone the boot. Then once the boot is smooth, you have to polish them, not rub them until the polish is gone, polish them until you can see your reflection! Super mission.
After polishing our boots, we were told to go for a 2.4km run, still stiff from the march, the drills and the obstacle course we run in pain.

Okay now we have learnt a few basics and have had an intro into anti poaching, so I'm not going to mention the drills and obstacle course again, as it will get repetitive, but take into consideration, that we did this everyday!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On Track - Introduction

Every twenty minutes the world adds 3500 human lives but looses one or more entire species of animal or plant life. That equates to at least 27 000 species each year! Where there were once over 100 000 black rhinos on the plains of Southern Africa, there are now only 2707 on the entire continent.
The staggering decimation of the rhino population is due to poaching, to satisfy the demand for the rhinos horn in Eastern traditional medicines and as dagger handles.

Prices of $40 000 have been recorded for the much prized rhino horn- That's five times the price of gold!!!

So I have decided to do something about this, and play my part in the conservation of these rhinos, this will be something new and exciting, something away from the hustle ad bustle of city life.

I am on my way to Hoedspruit where I will be trained on how to become an anti-poacher, it will be full of adventure, danger and physical challenges! I am going to be writing and posting as many pictures as possible, giving you a preview into the workings and behind the scenes action of training to become an anti-poacher.

For the first 28 days I will be receiving training from a company called Protrack. On this course I will have to complete a basic survival course, complete a weapon competency course, a snake handling course as well as a first aid level two.

I will also learn how to set up proper camps, build bashers, find water, cook basic ration packs over an open fire, track animals, as well as some of the big 5 with experienced instructors. We will also be classifying birds, trees and insects.
We will learn to successfully track and ambush poachers, find snares, work with dogs, and locate intrusions into reserves.

I am not sure if I will be able to update my blog for the first 28 days, as I believe there will be no contact with the outside world until the training is complete.

So simply put your email address in the box on the right hand side, and when I add posts/pics it will let you know. Simples : )