By Christopher Torchia
JOHANNESBURG — Jun 21, 2016
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 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.
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VETPAW provides meaningful employment to post-9/11 veterans, utilizing their expertise to train and support Africa’s anti-poaching rangers to prevent the extermination of keystone African wildlife, and the disastrous economic and environmental impact it would have.