Branscombe man shares experience working with anti-poaching team in South Africa

Sam, second from the right, helping Dehorn a rhino. Picture: Sam Leahy.

Sam, second from the right, helping Dehorn a rhino. Picture: Sam Leahy. - Credit: Archant

A Branscombe man who travelled to South Africa to help prevent wildlife poaching and became stranded there during lockdown has shared his experiences.

Sam Leahy went to South Africa in February to work with an anti-poaching unit for a couple of months. But when the Covid-19 pandemic began and lockdown was enforced the 25-year-old became stranded.

Speaking to the Herald, Sam said: “This whole Covid-19 pandemic is rather worrying and you do miss your family back in England but I have been extremely lucky, having family here to stay with and some great friends out here.

“I’ve always wanted to stay out here longer and eventually move out here so being stuck out here for me is actually quite nice.”

When speaking about his work on the anti-poaching unit, Sam said: “It was an absolute honour and a privilege.

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“To be able to help as best I could to help protect endangered wildlife was a real blessing.

“Daily patrols and lots of hard work but throughout you always felt you were doing something worthwhile.

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“Living in a tent under the African sky, getting up close to the big five (safari animals), and working with some fantastic people who were dedicated and selflessly doing their best in a sometimes tough environment.”

Sam said he mainly helped with daily patrols around the reserve, but also helped with road building and tracking, and tried to learn as much as possible.

He added: “Again, a real blessing and without sounding soppy, a dream come true really.

“I would love to eventually get a job in the industry whether anti-poaching or field guiding.

“But unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a real blow to the conservation industry.

“So as soon as this is all over, book a trip to Africa and help support this industry and don’t forget the people behind the scenes propping it up.”

Sam has moved down to KwaZulu-Natal while waiting for the airspace to reopen for a flight back, expected to be in mid-September.

He is also planning to climb up the Majuba mountain to raise money for the Help for Heroes charity, while he waits to get home.

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