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The people saving the rhino

Cricketer. Celebrity. Campaigner. His mission? Save the rhino from extinction.

There is absolutely no reason why… this should be happening"
Kevin Pietsersen

Kevin Pietersen has set up his own charity, SORAI (Save our Rhino’s in Africa and India) to rescue and rehabilitate abandoned or injured rhinos.

He wants to raise awareness globally and educate people about this endangered species.

Since 2013, more than 1,000 rhinos a year have been killed in South Africa – poached for the black market price of their horn, according to conservation charity Save the Rhino International.

"I am sick and tired of flying into the African bushveld and seeing dead rhinos," Pietersen said.

"The smell, the sight, is incredibly emotional, and there is absolutely no reason why on this earth… this should be happening."

So who is helping Kevin Pietersen in his fight? We meet the people on the front line of the battle to save the rhino.

Petronel Nieuwoudt

KP: Why 'rhino mother' Petronel is a hero

Kevin Pietersen says Petronel is "one of the most incredible women in the world."

“I think they worked out that they can communicate with me, and it’s very primal and it’s very special," says 'rhino mother' Petronel Nieuwoudt, founder of Care For Wild Rhino Sanctuary.

[Rhinos] can communicate with me...it’s very primal and it’s very special"

At a secret location near the Kruger National Park in South Africa, she nurtures baby rhinos orphaned when their mothers are killed for their horn.

Petronel says she will defend her babies to the death.

“Where we are is a stronghold. It’s an intensive protection zone," she says.

"We can have NO incursion. We can have NO poaching incident at all.

"Because we are the next generation of rhinos. I have two boys. Can they shoot? Yes. Can they drive? Yes.

"Do they have a crazy rough mum? Yes."

Cathy Dreyer

Meet Cathy: Caring for black rhinos in Kruger National Park

Cathy explains why poachers aren't always the "poor" people they are purported to be.

Cathy Dreyer is the black rhino monitoring and surveillance coordinator for the Kruger National Park.

I really don’t understand why people poach"

She works at a holding facility for the animals, where they house rhinos and care for them.

Cathy showed BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Sarah Brett a black rhino that had a broken foot.

"We’ve had lots of other rhinos, that when they’re shot their bones are completely shattered and you have no choice, you have to euthanise them, it’s the best thing for them."

"I really don’t understand why people poach," Cathy says.

"When you look at them, especially white rhino, they don’t have a mean bone in their body.

"You know, they’re absolutely gentle giants."

Respect Mathebula

(Photo: SANParks)

Respect Mathebula was a hard-working field ranger, killed in a shoot-out with suspected poachers in the Kruger National Park.

I don’t think there is one who can replace Respect"
Sergeant Wilson Siwela

He was 34, and is survived by his wife, Wisdom Ndlovu, and four children.

Sergeant Wilson Siwela is a ranger at South African National Parks.

He worked with Respect and was with him on the day he died.

"I called the backup from our HQ, that is where one of the helicopter came, we tried to help him," he says.

"The other helicopter came with the doctor and then we tried to help him and load him on the helicopter.

"But before he made it to the hospital they called us and said Respect is no more.

“Even now that gap that he left us with, I don’t think there is one who can replace Respect Mathebula."

Lady Victoria Hervey

Celebrity, model, wildlife conservationist, Lady Victoria Hervey, met Kevin Pietersen to discuss their shared passion for the plight of wild and endangered species like the rhino.

Who are these people that actually enjoy killing these animals?"

Victoria recently went undercover at a hunting convention in Nevada, US. She says her aim was to bring awareness to trophy hunting and, in her words, see "what is really going on".

"I've seen pictures on Instagram over the years, and I just wanted to see: Who are these people that actually enjoy killing these animals?" she says.

"I had a photographer with me. We were posing as a couple. And the most shocking thing was finding out about how readily available it is to shoot a rhino."

Jaco and Elana Mol

Jaco Mol is a helicopter pilot for South African National Parks (SANParks).

It’s a majestic animal, some kind of warrior"

Rangers rely on the helicopters for support during anti-poaching operations.

He and his wife Elana make a strong team – they understand how much this kind of job infiltrates family life.

Elana Mol also works in the Air Wing at SANParks - as a supply chain and quality assurance consultant.

"A live rhino," she says, "I almost think it’s a majestic animal, some kind of warrior with that horn on the front of its face. It’s got a very powerful look to it.”

Jaco says: "If I see a rhino… you want to save it, you want to keep it alive.

"We will never stop doing what we’re doing, but we’re not able to protect every single one of those animals around there, so that hurts.

"Coming up on carcasses and mutilated animals, that’s what makes grown men cry.

"The cruelty associated with it, and the senselessness... If you really want a rhino’s horn, you don’t need to kill it - you can cut it off like you cut your fingernails.

"And if you do have to kill the animal, then do it in an ethical way, kill it.

"Don’t slaughter or maim it and hurt it and leave it lying there bleeding for hours until it bleeds out or dies out eventually."

Frik Rossouw

Frik is a Senior Investigator at SANParks - an environmental crime investigator.

You can't get used to this slaughter"

He's one of the first on the scene when there's a dead rhino.

Like any crime scene investigator, he's looking for evidence that will link a person to the killing.

They're not only after the poachers - those pulling the trigger.

They want to arrest those higher up the chain as well.

"I attended a scene last Sunday where four rhino were shot, three of them were sub adults, two of them were shot and the horns were removed while the animals were still alive.

"And that does get to you, doesn’t matter how many scenes you’ve attended - and I've attended in excess of 1,500 over 30 years - but you can't get used to this slaughter."

"The ranger had to physically put them down when he arrived on the scene. And that gets to you. Pregnant females gets to you."

Brad Grafton

Brad is a senior pilot for SANParks Air Wing - and unofficial tour guide for Kevin Pietersen and Sarah Brett.

Brad flew Kevin and Sarah into the Kruger National Park, following reports that a rhino carcass had been found.

En route, he pointed out a herd of elephants - and a newborn rhino with its mum.

Brad says it's easy for poachers to operate in the area, because of its size.

"It's quite a remote area, you can do what you want, basically, and not be discovered."

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