WATCH | US military veterans take on rhino poachers in SA
US military veterans are putting their deadly combat skills to good use protecting rhinos from poachers in South Africa.
These highly trained former soldiers “run towards the sound of gunfire”‚ not away from it.
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‚” he said.
He formed an outfit called Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife (VetPaw) which harnesses the skills of former US soldiers to train‚ assist and advise rangers in counter-poaching operations.
Rhino Shield‚ an award-winning short documentary‚ shows the work the former soldiers are doing in South Africa.
Jeff‚ one of the veterans acting as a team leader‚ says in the documentary: “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 they (poachers) are trying to get to.”
“When I returned to civilian life after the Marine Corps‚ I lost myself. I didn’t really know what I was here for‚” Tate said on their website.
He joined the US military after the Twin Tower attacks in 9/11. 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‚ he saw an opportunity for them to serve in a different capacity.