Courageous park ranger makes a comeback

BABTINE – Between the hub of poaching in Mozambique and the Intensive Protection Zone in the Kruger National Park (KNP), an elite team of Dyck Advisory Group (DAG) is proving its mettle in the southern part of the newly formed Greater Lebombo Conservancy (GLC).

Sean van Niekerk and his hand-picked team of specialists and rangers have not lost one rhino since February this year.

One of the four conservancies of the GLC is the Sabie Game Reserve (SGR). Here the DAG team is so trusted by the KNP anti-poaching experts, that fences have been dropped on the almost 40-kilometre border between KNP and SGR.

Sabie Game Reserve is part of the Greater Lebombo Conservancy.

DAG has a well-designed anti-poaching strategy in place.

WATCH why the head ranger of the Kruger National Park is in favour of shifting the fence

It includes day and night patrols of the electrified fence between SGR and the so-called “poachers’ heaven” on the other side.

Here rhino kingpins park their Pajeros and Land Cruisers at Corner House, a derelict building which serves as a bar at which poachers meet, watch soccer, drink, exchange more than money and obtain poaching muti.
The participants arrive from Babtine and Curroman to plan onslaughts on rhinos.

On the way to ‘Poachers’ Heaven’, the small town of Moamba.

Van Niekerk was the target of such a poacher-supporting community, Curroman. Seven months ago, he and two colleagues escorted a group of apprehended poachers to the local police station.

READ more about the attack

The angry mob turned on them. They were ambushed. In the fight he was hit over the head with a panga and severely beaten.

An AK47-wielding off-duty policeman saved him whereafter he was rushed to Mediclinic Nelspruit with a fractured skull among his multiple injuries.

This courageous ranger, however, has put all of that behind him. He is back on the poachers’ block, still as determined to protect wildlife.

Sean van Niekerk and faithful companion, Hunter surveying the reserve.

“I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me,” Van Niekerk told Lowvelder.

“This is what we get up in the morning for. To create a safe haven for all species with a special focus on the protection of rhinos.”

He is proud of the fact that the area his team is protecting is not riddled with snares. No poachers hunt for bush meat in the reserve.

He attributed his ability to make a comeback to his philosophy of never giving in to fear.”Being scared is not an option. Being aware of danger is.”

Sean van Niekerk

Van Niekerk grew up in Louis Trichardt, obtained a B. Comm-degree at the University of Pretoria and then went to Wildlife College in the KNP. He is a regular participant of adventure racing in which he runs, cycles, rows and abseils.

He has a healthy respect for DAG’s team leader, Colonel Lionel Dyck, former Rhodesian and Zimbabwean military strategist and veteran of many a war.

“Respect is the game changer for our team. With that in place you can make conservation the winner.”

Elize Parker
Environmental Journalist Lowvelder

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