Afghanistan veteran Sam Dunwell, 25, from Glaisdale, will draw on the skills and experience he gained in the Royal Marines when he joins a hi-tech operation this weekend to track rhino poachers in South Africa’s Kruger National Park as a volunteer.
Sam is travelling to Africa with Veterans for Wildlife (V4W), a charity which offers
the services of highly trained and experienced men and women who have served in
the military to anti-poaching and conservation projects in Africa.
After a six-year career as marine, which saw him serve two tours in Afghanistan and
leave the service as a lance corporal, Sam now works on oil rigs as a roughneck.
He found out about V4W on social media, applied to lend a hand as a volunteer and is
now off to Africa to help man and monitor an innovative ‘wide area surveillance’
system with a strong British connection – it’s been part funded by the Postcode
Sam’s presence will provide much-needed relief to the system engineers who have
been manning the Postcode Meerkat day and night.
He said: “I’ve had a passion for the military and wildlife from a young age, and veterans for wildlife gives me the opportunity to be able to use my military background to help animals at risk.
“It’s a perfect fit.
“Poaching in Africa is a terrible thing; the greed of people feeding a market that can
only be funded by the killing of a beautiful animal is something that needs to stop,
and stop before its too late.”
On a personal level, Sam said he hoped to achieve something tangible and worthwhile
from his deployment.
“I have done multiple things for charity in the past and never seen the end result of the money raised,” he said.
“V4W is giving me the chance to see and experience first hand what is happening out in Africa and where the money raised is being used, along with being able to physically make a difference myself.
“I think that is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Dubbed the ‘Postcode Meerkat’, the system uses an array of radar and electro-optic
sensors to detect poachers moving illegally through the Kruger National Park.
Smart thinking technology allows the system to pick up the difference between humans and animals in the wildlife-rich park.
South Africa’s rhino population is under serious threat from poachers armed with
hunting and assault rifles.
Rhinos are killed for their horns, which are illegally traded in South East Asia and China for their value as status symbols and use in traditional medicine.
Previous V4W volunteers who have worked on the Meerket system helped foil several poaching attempts by detecting poachers before they could reach their targets.