Harrison Purtle
Harrison Purtle campaign leader

The story I’m about to share is about a couple who had an encounter with a poacher in the Kruger. This story shares how serious poaching is and how cruel it can be.

On the last morning of the trail, we left camp after breakfast and were on our way back to Letaba. The guests were chatting as we drove, they had had such a lovely time on the trail and were still asking Steven all sorts of questions when as we came around a corner Steven suddenly slammed on the brakes! On our left were two men standing in camouflage looking at us. There was a third man lying on the ground. Next to him was a blue bag with something inside. Steven switched off the car and got his rifle out. The two men turned out to be undisclosed Special Forces troops. The person on the ground, lying under an apple leaf shrub, was a poacher. In the blue bag next to him was a freshly poached set of rhino horns
One trooper was tall and slender, with a bandana around his head. We nicknamed him Rambo afterwards, because that was who he reminded us of. He was still very worked up, full of adrenaline. He told Steven what had happened, and for once, the Italians were dead quiet.You see, the Special Forces don’t like to be seen by tourists. So when they heard the sound of the cruiser and the chatting Italians, they hid by the side of the road waiting for us to pass. But before we were in sight, a group of three poachers had also heard us and they were making a run for the border.So as the two soldiers were waiting for us to pass, they all of a sudden saw three poachers running towards them. They broke cover, trying to make an arrest and a shoot-out occurred. I don’t know any of the finer details, but we arrived minutes after they apprehended the man we saw lying on the ground. Steven was visibly upset. This was his wilderness area… this was one of his beloved rhinos! Everyone was devastated. Another rhino lost so that someone in Asia can have an imaginary cure for cancer or an aphrodisiac… they might as well just eat their own fingernails  – they are made of the same material: keratin.
We left as the army ambulance and other people were arriving. It was a very quiet drive back to Letaba…Neither Steven nor myself have been in a similar situation since, but the fight against rhino poaching continues every day by the rangers, field rangers and dogs here in the Kruger. They are fighting a war and risking their lives so our children and their children can still come to this beautiful place and see black and white rhinos in the wild.

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