Shannon French, Cameron Wheelehen and Tom Potter travelled to Africa to teach rangers new techniques in their on-going fight against Black Rhino poachers as volunteers for the International Anti-Poaching Foundation [IAPF].
The IAPF was set up by former Australian soldier Damien Mander and the organisation aims to up-skill the approach of rangers and defend wildlife at risk in an effort to confront tech-savvy and well financed poaching networks.
The men met on operations in Timor Leste when they were part of the International Stabilisation Force. Originally Mr French went to Zimbabwe and volunteered. From there he and Mr Wheelehen went to Africa to work with the IPAF and seek adventure. Mr Potter followed in their footsteps in an effort to make the most of his army educated skill set.
PHOTO: Tom Potters trained rangers and fought against poachers hunting black rhino.
National Geographic says the rhinos are generally hunted for their horn which some people believe holds magical powers and can be used for medicinal purposes.
Mr Potter was based near Victoria Falls.
The rangers who worked on the reserve are the sorts of guys who already come equipped with so much knowledge, says Mr Potter.
“I mean we’re talking about men who were born in the bush and could hear a giraffe before they would see it and they could tell that by a footprint in the ground if a specific animal was pregnant.”
Mr Potter’s role was to help with the implementation of new technology and go on patrols. “Always making sure that the only foot prints in the game park were our own.”
While there, he did catch a poacher. One man had come through the fence and upon being caught he said he had become lost and wandered off his track but the rangers with Mr Potter quickly deduced that he was lying. People in this part of Africa do not get lost from their village if they are a local, they said. “We found him and he was sent to jail, which was great.”
The park also had a success story when they shut down a poaching party that contained a professional hunter and an off-duty police officer. The men had come through the game fence and got separated when a pride of lions also came into the park causing the men to panic. The rangers were able to find one of the men hiding up a tree who quickly gave up the information about his colleagues. The rangers and police then worked together to perform a raid on the house where the poachers were staying and uncovered a cache of weapons and were able to arrest the men.
“It saved the rhino and the rangers a lot of hassle.”
Mr Potter says his time with IAPF has impacted him. It may have only been a month but he can see how the rangers form such strong bonds with the animals they’ve being tasked to look after.
“It puts a lot things in perspective especially being in places like Africa. There’s a lot of selfless people out there who do things out of pure love. And after operating in places where all you see is a saturation of human greed and people out there for their own wellbeing, it was really nice to work with men, hard, hard, men who were in it to help something other than themselves.”
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Additional rhino images, courtesy Shutterstock.com