By Jacob Kersh
Back in February 2018, cinematographer and YouTube sensation Sam Kolder was given the opportunity to travel to Africa. There, he partnered with the organization VETPAW (Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife), and learned all about the war against poaching. He
witnessed a rhino horn being cut off firsthand, which compelled him to create an entire documentary to spread the word about VETPAW’s efforts to protect the wild animals of Africa.
VETPAW is a group of United States Veterans with extensive combat skills who are committed to protecting and training Park Rangers and combating poaching on the ground throughout Africa. The organization utilizes specialized military experience and careful planning based on counter-insurgency training techniques made for fighting rebellion. With this expertise, VETPAW is gradually turning the tide against the poaching epidemic in Africa. VETPAW works tirelessly to protect animals such as rhinos and elephants from the harm of poachers, and have created two constantly guarded sanctuaries for them to live and be comfortable in. Kolder documented their strength and determination in a recent YouTube video that was trending for days and that has been praised by numerous wildlife advocates and environmentalists. Members of the Glenelg community have also responded extremely positively to the documentary and its message; senior Hassan Malik says that the video “showed [him] how large-scale an issue poaching is in Africa through beautiful cinematics and a cool storyline.” The video has also already reached over half a million views and is well on its way to hitting over one million.
One of VETPAW’s signature missions is to seek out rhinos in the wild and remove their horns without harming the animals. However, they do not do so to sell the material on the black market like most poachers would. They first tranquilize the beast, then safely remove its horn from its body without dismembering its face. The animal feels no pain, and its horn grows back in 3-5 years time. This action dramatically decreases the rhino’s chance of being killed for its horn by poachers, and since rhinos have no natural predators other than poachers, they no longer use their horns anyway.
Kolder mentioned in the video that the trip “opened his eyes to the reality of poaching and how animal populations are diminishing faster and faster each year because of it.” And he is right. With some species of Rhinos having already gone extinct, any remaining Rhinos are now in the danger zone. As the demand for the Rhino horn goes up, so does its value; consequently, poachers are risking everything in order to take the lives of these gentle giants and get their hands on them. They now have modern equipment and technologically advanced animal traps, and run thoroughly planned and organized missions. As a result, one African Rhino is killed every 15 minutes—that’s 100 rhinos a day. Additionally, it is a well known fact that poaching funds terrorism, and that many poachers are also active members of terrorist organizations that reside in remote areas of Africa. Glenelg Junior Nate Curtis believes that “this statistic is outrageous, and more people should be made aware of VETPAW so that they can receive funding to prevent more Rhino deaths from happening and also prevent terrorism.” Kolder would agree, and has linked a donation fund in the description of his YouTube video so that his viewers can help in any way they can.
The war against poaching in Africa is far from over. However, with organizations like VETPAW actively fighting against the evils of poaching and YouTube personalities such as Sam Kolder documenting their efforts, society can become more aware of the pressing issue and come closer to eliminating it entirely.