JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A group of American military veterans with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan plans to train rangers at some private wildlife areas in South Africa, where poachers have killed large numbers of rhinos for their horns.
The small conservation group called Vetpaw previously operated in Tanzania, which ordered the group to leave last year, partly because of a video in which a member talked about killing poachers.
Ryan Tate, a former U.S. Marine and head of Vetpaw, said Tuesday that the member didn't speak for Vetpaw and that he has sought to "rebrand" the organization.
Tate and Shea Peaton, a U.S. Navy veteran, have spent about a month in South Africa, assessing security needs in several wildlife parks. Training will include marksmanship, field medicine and maneuvering at night, Tate said.
"People are desperate and want to try anything and everything that they can," he said, referring to operators of private wildlife areas that lack the resources that some state-run parks receive.
On Friday, suspected poachers fatally shot a ranger and killed a rhino at a private reserve in Bela-Bela, north of Johannesburg, South African media reported. Separately, the national parks service said Monday that two rangers at the state-run Kruger National Park were arrested for alleged involvement in rhino poaching.
Tate and Peaton are both 31 and from Tampa, Florida. Peaton said he has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and that working with Vetpaw provides a sense of purpose.
"A lot of guys don't find that" after returning to the United States from deployments, he said.
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