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Anti-Poaching Insights From A Game Ranger

White rhino
Credit Bernard Dupont from France - White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum), CC BY-SA 2.0,

Sean van Niekerk, an experienced Game Ranger, gave us some incredible insights into the life of a game ranger and the anti-poaching war. On our podcast, he chatted to Cayla de Souza from AATG about some of his experiences and how they combat poaching. 

Who Is Sean? 

Rhinos in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Image provided by Elephant Crossings Lodge.

Sean grew up next to the Kruger National Park in South Africa and has always been passionate about wildlife and its conservation. He entered the field during the height of the rhino poaching war when he joined a team in Mozambique. In this Intensive Protective Zone (IPZ), they zeroed the rhino poaching from the eastern side into the Kruger National Park within a year. Resulting in Mozambique having some resident, and safe, rhinos for the first time in years. 

Further Efforts

Elephant and Calve
Elephant mothers nurse their calves for four to six years. Image via Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From there Sean and his team moved to Limpopo, South Africa to combat elephant poaching in the area. Here they also zeroed the elephant poaching, making an immense difference in the safety of these animals. Today Sean is in Saudi Arabia, where he is assisting in setting up reserves and implementing the protection of animals there. 

How Do They Combat Poaching? 

A closeup shot of a magnificent Northern white rhino. Image via Depositphotos

Sean and his team approached their fight against poaching based on three pillars. The first is community relations. Where they build their relationship with surrounding communities and change their perspective on the importance of conservation. The second pillar is the political will to stop poaching. This refers to the government’s involvement and motivation to prosecute the poachers once they are obtained. 


A female Rhino
A female rhino/rhinoceros protecting her calf in South Africa. Image via Depositphotos.

The third pillar is anti- or counter-poaching. There are various levels of poaching, with different reasons behind them. The first is subsistence poaching, where people hunt for bushmeat to feed themselves and their families. The second is criminal poaching driven by greed. It is this group that harms animals like rhinos and their conservation. It is also here where teams like Sean’s step in. 

Levels Of Poachers

Adult elephants with cube
Adult elephants with cube. Image by GUDKOVANDREY via Depositphotos

Level 1

Level 1 poachers are the hunters pulling the trigger on the ground. These are often strong, hard, and dangerous people who work for incentives set by the higher-ups of the organization. It is also this group that Anti-Poaching Units track in the field. 

Level 2

Level 2 poachers are the handlers. They are often Level 1 poachers who have worked themselves up to organizing various groups of poachers. Providing those on the ground with food, rifles, and transport to and from their poaching efforts. 

Level 3

Level 3 poachers are the exporters. They buy the rhino horns from the handlers and get them to the buyers. Authorities often enter at this stage with enough information to intervene in the poaching syndicate. 

Anti-Poaching Impact

rhino conservation
Image by Dianne Magbanua-Negado via Pexels

Anti-poaching units like those Sean belonged to, will track the Level 1 poachers in the field. Once caught, they will set up sting operations to obtain their handlers. From here on the information is handed over to authorities to catch the exporters. However, it is important to mention that counter-poaching is not the solution to poaching, but rather a way of stopping the bleeding caused by it. 

Learn More Here

In the podcast below you can hear some of the interesting experiences Sean has had as a ranger. Some terrifying some inspiring, and overall wonderful insight to the life of a passionate and dedicated ranger in his part in the fight against poaching. 

YouTube video
Ranger Sean Van Niekerk shares insights into Conservation and Anti-Poaching in Southern Africa. Source: Youtube, Uploaded: Animals Around The Globe.

Last Thoughts On The Anti-Poaching Insights

Armed guard and one of the last northern white rhinos
Armed guard and one of the last northern white rhinos Credit: Historic Vids @historyinmemes X

It is incredible to get these insights into what goes on behind the scenes of wildlife poaching directly from an experienced Game Ranger. And even more inspiring to know that the work rangers like Sean do positively impact the livelihood and safety of animals. We wish them all the best and thank them for their incredible passion and care for wildlife!

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