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Heroes

U.S. Marine veteran started 'VETPAW' to combat animal poachers in Africa

U.S. Marine veteran started 'VETPAW' to combat animal poachers in Africa

We have all seen videos of sickening and senseless violence that trophy hunters inflict on innocent animals and been so enraged that we want to book the next flight to Africa and put a stop to it. Well, meet the man that did.

U.S. Marine veteran Ryan Tate came across a documentary on animal poaching one night. "On the show there were some poachers, and instead of shooting the animal, they got a hold of a shootable tranquilizer. It doesn't make a loud gunshot noise," Tate told Grit Daily. "They darted a female rhino. She went to sleep and they hacked her horn off."

She woke up and conservationists found her and wanted to help, but she kept running. She was confused. She was scared. The rhino ended up bleeding out and dying." That was all it took for Tate to take matters into his own hands and do something about it. That was when he left his job at the U.S. State Department providing security for foreign diplomats and started non-profit VETPAW (Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife).

Tate used the connections he had made while working at the State Department to start working with the federal wildlife parks in Tanzania. He flew over and funded it with his own money. His first order of business was to find out what skill sets the park rangers possessed. He found they excelled at tracking animals, so he combined that with his military skills to create a training program. The rangers lacked the medical training necessary for an operation so far from a hospital.

"Not a single ranger knew first aid, CPR, nor had they ever seen a tourniquet," Tate said. "We had rangers dying of Malaria. It was unbelievable and so mind-blowing to introduce a tourniquet and antibiotics to rangers. We bring them medical supplies. Some of these guys didn't even have heels or soles on their boots. They had holes in them. We gave them our boots and we ran around in gym shoes."

Animal poachers in Africa are extremely dangerous and the rangers are often outgunned. It's been reported that a kilo of rhino horns is worth up to $65,000. The demand comes from East Asia, where rhino horn is seen as a medicine and a status symbol. It's met with international networks linking poor villages in South Africa with traffickers and then people who buy it. Law enforcement turns a blind eye and corruption continues.

As Tate explained to Grit Daily, "Wildlife trafficking is one of the top five international crimes. Rhino horns and elephant tusks are very much part of this. When you start messing with their bottom lines, which could be a million dollars for one horn, you get some very dangerous people who take notice."

Over the past year, Tate and his crew of over 30 veterans trained the rangers and patrolled up to 100,000 acres. They also work with local law enforcement to find poachers in nearby neighborhoods and have them arrested. If there is one group you don't want to mess with, it's pissed off U.S. Marines. So poachers, go home, re-think your life and save us all the trouble.

And if there is a "Coolest Guy on the Planet" award, I am pretty sure Ryan Tate is not only a nominee, but a heavy favorite to take home the hardware.

Visit their web site at https://vetpaw.org/ where vets can apply to join the fight. You can also make a donation, as well as sign up for a 10-day experience for which all the proceeds fund VETPAW.

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