Military veterans train rangers in South Africa

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By Ewurama Kodjo  with AFP
Military veterans train rangers in South Africa

Military veterans have found a new role in south Africa’s poaching war.

Veterans from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are teaching military techniques to South African rangers.

Rhino poaching in South Africa has increased from less than 100 in 2008 to nearly 1200 in 2015 alone.

Faced with such slaughter, conservationists and government authorities have been desperately searching for ways to protect the animals.

Many ideas have been tried but the killing has continued, and now military veterans from the United States, Australia and elsewhere have been drafted to bring their expertise to the uphill battle to save the rhinos.

American war veteran, Lynn Westover explains, ‘‘The same behavior that you see in poaching is the same thing that you see in an insurgency, so having extensive background and understanding in insurgency and counter insurgency, all these applications directly apply’‘.

Owners of private reserves and local ranches are taking the training courses together with guards and rangers in efforts to better protect the wildlife and ward off poachers.

“A normal poacher you follow just runs. A rhino poacher has rifles, they will shoot at you if they feel their life was in danger. These guys were in the military, they were in this situation, they were shot upon, they know what to look for, it is important to us that our people know what to look for in a situation like that”, said Christophe Vorster, a private ranch owner.

Demand for rhino horn in Vietnam and China where it is used for medicinal purposes has soared and intensified poaching and trafficking of rhino horns.

The horns sell on the Asian black market for up to $ 60,000 per kilo