We are forever thankful to the Shamwari Game Reserve Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) who work tirelessly to protect our rhinos from poachers. Their hours are incredibly long and their sacrifices are many.
First Female APU Member
A few months ago, Denise Erikkson joined our team, who officially became the first female APU member.
Originally from Sweden, Denise spent her time in South Africa completing her APU training.
After completing this training, along with a three month APU dog handling course, she is hoping to apply for a research visa for next year, to further study the plight of the rhino poaching crisis and to travel the globe to see all aspects of rhino poaching including working with other units and visiting rhino orphanages. Denise has a deep love for animals especially dogs and she was delighted to work extensively with Blade, our anti-poaching tracker dog and would like to one day get her own to train and help protect rhinos.
On her thoughts of her duties and working as a member of the APU she said that it’s a lot different to what she thought it would entail, she says, “there is a lot of night shift work and patrolling in vehicles on the reserve.” This included deployment in the bush.
Our Anti-Poaching Unit participates in all kinds of patrols which include vehicular, on-foot, quad-bike and motorbike. These patrols are completed in what are seen as high and low-risk areas on the reserve and include monitoring the boundary fence for possible poacher entry points.
A large portion of the unit’s time is spent looking for rhinos to make sure they are protected 24/7 as well as keeping their eye out for tracks of poachers. There are a few days in the month that some members sleep out in the bush during a time that the poachers are likely to attack. This means that not only are they in extreme conditions but they’re also putting their lives in danger.
The APU team trains on a monthly basis at our firing range to maintain a level of expertise and skill, should they be required to use their weapon against poachers. Denise joined the APU team in all these activities and proved herself to be an excellent marks-woman, even beating out some of the guys on their overall score.
The APU is a fundamental asset, not only to Shamwari Game Reserve but more importantly in protecting our endangered rhinos. The long night shifts and hours of patrolling on constant alert is a tremendously difficult job, but we have them to thank for keeping our rhinos safe.