The Rhino Man Podcast is hosted by film director John Jurko II. He interviews top conservationists about the importance of rangers, rhinos, and what we can do to stop the poaching crisis. The podcast is in support of the Global Conservation Corps' documentary, Rhino Man — the story of the courageous field rangers who risk their lives every day to protect South Africa's rhinos from being poached to extinction. Make sure to Subscribe, Listen, and Review on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
On the evening of July 26th, 2022, our dear friend Anton Mzimba was brutally gunned down at his home in front of his family, by what was presumed to have been hitmen from a rhino poaching syndicate. He always said he knew the risks. The risks of being a ranger. The risks of sharing his story. But that doesn’t change the fact that his loss is devastating. He could have done so much more. This podcast episode may be the last interview Anton gave. In it he gives us his life story, his hopes, and his dreams. May your legacy forever live on, my friend. 🦏🙏❤️
In this episode, I’m talking with my good friend, Anton Mzimba. Anton has been a field ranger in South Africa for over 24 years, and he is currently the Head of Security for the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. In 2016, he won Best Field Ranger at the Rhino Conservation Awards. Anton also serves as a technical advisor for the Global Conservation Corps.
In this conversation, we talk about how Anton became a ranger, his days of training rangers at the Southern African Wildlife College, the role of a ranger and how it has changed over the years, the emotional toll of facing armed poachers, and how to navigate family life with a job that takes you away from home for long periods of time. We also dig into potential solutions to poaching, which include working closely with local communities, and we get Anton’s thoughts on the coming release of Rhino Man.
In this episode, I’m talking with Damien Mander. Damien is the Founder and CEO of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), which delivers ecological stability and long-term protection of large-scale wilderness landscapes by supporting and empowering local communities. Damien is the winner of the 2019 Winsome Constance Kindness Gold Medal. He was featured in the James Cameron documentaries “The Game Changers” and National Geographic’s “Akashinga – The Brave One’s’” about his work with the women of Akashinga. His TEDx talk at the Sydney Oprah House on speciesism has been translated into 27 languages. He is a resident on the National Geographic Live Speakers Bureau, has lectured at the UN, Harvard University, featured in June 2019’s National Geographic Magazine, three times on 60 Minutes and recognized by the Dutch Government as a Gender Champion.
In this conversation, we talk about Damien’s path from soldier to ranger trainer—his misconceptions when starting out in conservation, and the learning process that followed. We talk about the beginnings of IAPF and what it’s grown into today. We dive into Akashinga and LEAD Ranger, discuss public speaking and the power of storytelling, and go deep on the meaning and power of purpose and commitment. So much to take away from this one. So without further ado, here is Damien Mander.
In this episode, I’m talking with Olivia Swaak-Goldman. Olivia is currently the Executive Director of the Wildlife Justice Commission, whose mission is to disrupt and help dismantle the transnational criminal networks trading in wildlife, timber, and fish, by collecting evidence and turning it into accountability. Olivia has 26 years of experience in international justice and diplomacy, has published extensively on issues of international criminal law and international humanitarian law, and served as a lecturer at both Harvard and Leiden Universities.
This conversation is slightly different from the norm. We do dig into the path that brought Olivia to the WJC, and we take a quick overview of the work being done there, but the majority of this talk concerns WJC’s recent release of their Global Threat Assessment on Rhino horn trafficking as a form of transnational organized crime, which covers intelligence and data analysis from 2012–2021. We really go deep on everything from the demand for and value of rhino horn, the supply chain from poacher to retail seller, the impact of looking at the rhino horn trade as a transnational organized crime problem versus as a conservation problem, the impact COVID has had on the trade, why law enforcement and government agencies need to collaborate across borders, and so much more. We hope that this is a valuable introduction to this threat assessment. And if you’re curious, please visit the Wildlife Justice Commissions website and download the entire 111 page document.
In this episode, I’m talking with James Slade. James was born in British Columbia surrounded by wildlife on the Canadian West Coast. After some years of traveling he ended up studying at the Southern African Wildlife College. From there he worked as a game ranger and tracker at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, he was the Senior Warden and Operations Manager with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, he worked for the Game Rangers Association of Africa, he was a Technical Advisor for the Bumi Hills Foundation, and he is currently the Wildlife Crime Prevention Officer for Re:wild. On top of that Jame’s is a Volunteer Firefighter with the Lone Butte Fire Department in BC, Canada.
In this conversation, we talk about all of James’ roles and experiences through the lens of following his passion for wild spaces and working in the bush. From his early days growing up in BC, to his decision to study at the SAWC, and all that he has learned and encountered through his varied positions over the years. From training rangers, to combating poaching, to understanding crime prevention. This is another great episode full of stories of following one’s passion and seeing where it takes them.
In this episode, I’m talking with my friend Donaxi Borjes Flores. Donaxi graduated with a degree in Marine Biology from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur. She then volunteered on Guadalupe Island west of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, where she was able to work with rangers stationed on the island. Shortly after she applied for and took a job as a ranger working for the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas on that same island.
In this conversation, we talk about Donaxi’s connection to the ocean, her path through higher education, and how she found herself working on this small protected island. We go into the many duties she must perform as a ranger, some of the research and projects taking place in the unique biome, and we even talk about her experience cage diving with great whites. This has been a great opportunity to learn what rangers are doing from places outside of the African context, and Donaxi is full of passion, energy, and love for her work.
In this episode, I’m talking with retired Major General Johan Jooste. General Jooste spent 35 years in the South African National Defence Force as an infantry officer, a war veteran of Southern African campaigns, and finally exiting the military as the Deputy Chief of the Army. His second career was 5 years as the Director of International Business Development for BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa, a South African defence company. The General’s third career started in 2013 and includes the roles of Officer Commanding Special Projects at Kruger, Officer Commanding Special Projects at SANParks, Law Enforcement and Security Program Manager at Peace Parks Foundation, and Law Enforcement and Security Program Manager seconded to the National Department.
In this conversation, we talk about General Jooste’s past experience in the military and how he ended up leading the para-militarization of the ranger corps at Kruger National Park. We dive into the many challenges he faced, his method for securing the park from the outside in, the risks the rangers must take to protect the rhinos from poaching syndicates, and why he decided to write his new book titled, Rhino War. The General wants to make it clear that all of his answers are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the organizations he works for. There are many great stories and lessons in this one, along with the harsh realities of poaching crisis.
In this episode, I’m talking with Paul Thomaz Lindenberg. Paul is a singer-songwriter who grew up in South Africa during apartheid. He served in the military and became a part of the band, performing for soldiers deployed to the Border War. He eventually made his way to Italy, where his musical career grew. He performed regularly and recorded songs for Polydor Records, some of which are now being re-released through Underflow Records.
This is a very special conversation, because Paul is the father of Matt Lindenberg, my good friend, and the Founder and Executive Director of the Global Conservation Corps. Paul’s newly released song, Rhino Man, was the inspiration for the title of our film and is an ode to the rangers who put their lives on the line to protect the rhinos.
In this chat, we discuss Paul’s early days growing up, his relationship with music, his time in the military, and his desire to see the world. We talk about his musical process, and how he became connected to conservation. We dive into the development of the song Rhino Man, and how that name, along with Matt’s passion for conservation, sparked a movement. Paul even gives us an acoustic taste of Rhino Man at the end of the episode. So make sure to listen to the end, and then go to Spotify or Apple Music to hear the fully produced release.
This episode is dedicated to the late great legend and friend, ranger Anton Mzimba (1980-2022).