Cape Town - SANParks wildlife ranger Lucky Ndlovu talks to Traveller24 about his nomination for the upcoming Tusk Conservation Award.
Sergeant Ndlovu leads the Field Ranger K9 team in Kruger National Park, and is instrumental in the fight against rhino poaching.
He's been working at the parks since 1992 and was pivotal in reducing poaching numbers to half in the last year, as well as responsible for the arrest of a regional ranger and state vet who were involved in poaching.
His superior Colonel Otch Otto sees Ndlovu as "one of the most skillful and effective tactical specialists" that he's worked with, and highly deserving of the Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award.
For Ndlovu, rhino convservation is very important "because the rhino is our heritage."
"We are responsible to look after them for future generations. If there are no rhino in the world, in the future it will be like the dinosaurs - we have to guess what they were like and read about them in books only. Rhino is also valuable for tourism in our country, which supports many jobs. If we have no tourists visiting we will have bigger problems of unemployment in South Africa."
The ranger was also quite surprised he was nominated. "I never thought that the things we did were noticed by others. I always thought that we were only noticed for what we did inside the Kruger National Park," says Ndlovu.
"The nomination motivates me to train the youngsters who will follow me, to be good field rangers."
Growing up in the park
Being a park ranger is in Ndlovu's blood, as most of his family, including his father and grandfather, were field rangers in Kruger.
"The rules were not so strict in those days and I used to travel with my father to see what he is doing in his job. I wanted to protect the place where my grandfather and father grew up. It’s the animals that have supported my family, so I want to protect the animals so that my children can also work in the Kruger Park."
One of his most memorable experiences was when he was surprised by three buffalo in 1994, who picked him up with their horns and almost trampled him to death. "My shirt came loose and the buffalo ran away with my rain coat and my shirt. Three months later and very far away, the soldiers found my shirt. I never found my rain coat. I was very fortunate to have survived."
The challenges rangers face
At the moment the biggest challenge for rangers is rhino poaching and communicating with rangers in other countries where poachers come from, according to Ndlovu.
"We don’t rest. You have to continually think about solving it."
Ndlovu also want other rangers to know that they should never give up.
"Rangers must work together as a team, as a team you will have success. You must continually be communicating with one another.
Remain honest and be loyal to yourself, do not get involved with the poachers and accept their temptations."
Check out the other nominees below:
The awards event will take place on 4 October in Cape Town and will be hosted by Derek Watts, with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Graça Machel and FW de Klerk. Tusks is also supported by the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William and the event will also present the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa.
Traveller24 will be attending, so follow us on Twitter to see who wins!
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