Africa’s war on poaching spills over into new Tony Park novel
Author draws on personal encounters with those who are fighting to protect the continent’s wildlife
Author Tony Park has once more drawn on his experiences in Africa and his background as a former army officer to bring a real-life “wildlife war” to the pages of his 14th novel, The Cull.
In the book, former mercenary Sonja Kurtz is hired by business tycoon Julianne Clyde-Smith to head an elite squad. Their aim: to take down Africa's top poaching kingpins and stop at nothing to save its endangered wildlife.
But, as the body count rises, it becomes harder for Sonja to stay under the radar and she is targeted by an underworld syndicate known as The Scorpions.
When her love interest, safari guide and private investigator Hudson Brand, is employed to look into the death of an alleged poacher at the hands of Sonja’s team, she is forced to ask herself if Julianne’s crusade has gone too far.
From South Africa's Kruger National Park to the Serengeti of Tanzania, Sonja realises she is fighting a war on numerous fronts, against enemies known and unknown.
Park has personally encountered Africa’s war on poaching and the people fighting it.
“I live half of each year in Africa and, near my house, on the border of South Africa’s Kruger National Park, there is a war being fought daily between anti-poaching units and heavily armed poachers hunting endangered rhinos,” he says.
“Elements of The Cull are based on reality. Ex-soldiers, like the fictitious Sonja Kurtz, some of them foreign veterans of the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, are currently working in Africa training and mentoring anti-poaching operatives in this wildlife war.”
About the author
Tony Park was born in 1964 and grew up in Sydney. He has worked as a reporter, a press secretary, a PR consultant and a freelance writer. He is also a major in the Australian Army Reserve and served as a public affairs officer in Afghanistan in 2002. He and his wife, Nicola, divide their time between Australia and Southern Africa.
Park, who served with the Australian army in Afghanistan, visited all-female anti-poaching unit the Black Mambas near the Kruger park. The Mambas, all members of the community near the reserve, provided the inspiration for an all-woman unit in The Cull called The Leopards.
The author is also a volunteer with an international NGO, Veterans for Wildlife, which pairs military veterans with anti-poaching units and conservation programmes in Africa.
Just like Sonja Kurtz, real-life female soldiers who have served in the Middle East are supporting anti-poaching efforts by passing on their expertise. One of the challenges facing the Black Mambas is to break down stereotypes in what has traditionally been a male-dominated profession.
Park said the job of protecting wildlife was a high-risk, high-stakes business, with rhino horn now worth more than gold, diamonds or cocaine. It’s a life-and-death struggle for humans as well as animals.
“About 500 armed poachers have been killed in South Africa over the past 10 years in this ongoing battle. Every day, national park rangers, police and military take to the African bush and put their lives on the line in defence of the environment. It’s inspirational stuff,” he added.
This article was paid for by Pan Macmillan.