By Ntsako Shivambu


For some people waking up in the morning and preparing to go to work is a joyful and exuberant situation. They up in the morning looking forward to a productive day, but for Rhino Guards, it is a concoction of feelings.

Amukelani Chavalala, a rhino guard with K9 conservation anti-poaching unit, describes the dangers of confronting poachers who are armed to the teeth; poachers who only have their eyes set at the prize which is to kill the rhino and anything that prevent them is removed from their way.

It’s a job with a meager salary that requires people with dedication and passion for the chaparral. The primary duty is to save the rhino from extinction and preserving nature.

“My day starts with a morning patrol, checking the fence and tracking if there is a sign of foot tramps”, says Amukelani.

"On full moon we do night patrols, observations and visit hot spots for ambush’' he adds.

The fear of being shot by a poacher is only in those with no experience, as for Amukelani the bush is his second home and having grown up in the rural area, the bush is easy for him to survive. His passion for animals and preserving nature is something that runs in his family as his father was a nature conservationist with South African National Parks. His father taught him the importance of nature. It is his father’s lessons that made him to risk his life by joining the K9 Conservation Anti-Poaching Unit to save the rhino.

Unlike in Botswana where Rhinos are hardly killed, South Africa is one of the countries which the survival of the Rhino species is dependent on law enforcement agencies and private game farm owners improving their strategy in dealing with rhino poaching. If the proper methods and control over rhino poaching are not improved, our grandchildren might only read about Rhinos without seeing them. 

"We have vowed to protect the rhino from total extinction and no condition will prevent us from doing so. There are those who took the job because of high unemployment in the country but some of us are doing it out of love" Amukelani remarks, after being asked about the poor wages in this job.

"We sometimes have a situation where some of those who are supposed to protect the rhino, leak information to poachers, and that put us in grave danger", he adds.



Protecting a gold mine whilst you fail to make ends meet is the situation Amukelani and his coworkers are faced with and only those with passion survive under the conditions. In this job one is in dissolution; leaving home and not sure if they will come back.

"On one fateful day we were busy with night patrols and we came across three guys who were armed with military rifles, they fired shots towards our direction. We were confused because we thought it was our colleagues. We then retaliated by shooting back and the men ran away. It’s so hard to do this job; you need a heart of steel”, he adds.

Amukelani admits that poachers also improve their attacking skills. "You need to use your own style of survival in the bush; there are changes every day, poachers also learn new ways of overcoming us."


"In all this I will never lose the passion and the love I have for the animals. It is this love that keeps me going, the love for the bush and nature is what drives me." Amukelani concludes. 

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