New Al Jazeera series Wildlife Warzone is to explore the only thing standing between heavily-armed poachers and the decimation of a species: rangers. Poaching is worth $17-billion a year and is being fueled by demand in Asia, where rhino horn in particular is believed to have, unproven, medicinal properties, including the ability to cure cancer.
Poaching is big business in South Africa - rhino horn is now worth more than gold.
The six-part series follows a new batch of trainee rangers as they are put through their paces over 38 days, during which time they have no access to the outside world. They are pushed to breaking point, both physically and mentally. Some will crack under the pressure. Those that don't will emerge as highly-trained operatives capable of battling the poachers they are up against, many of whom are former soldiers.
Being a wildlife ranger is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Each night a battle rages between South Africa’s wildlife rangers and criminal gangs. As trainee ranger Chrisjan Visser says, "Being shot at is hard to describe. You see the weapon coming up and, a fraction of a second later, you hit the deck. And you close your eyes and pray."
"There have been many programmes about the wildlife crisis in Africa," says Al Jazeera English director of programmes, Paul Eedle. "However this series takes a unique look at the issue through the eyes of trainee anti-poaching rangers. The series of 25-minute films follows the new recruits as some leave home for the first time, enter a brutal world of military training and finally head to the frontline of Africa’s Wildlife Warzone."
Many of the trainees want to become rangers to protect their habitat. As trainee Nabiel Leon says, “There is no doubt in my mind I will love what I will be doing. It is to protect the rhinos … protecting what I love." More....