A passion for protecting the environment is putting a Canadian soldier from Yellowknife on the front lines in the fight against poaching. Master Cpl. Greg Kinsman, an army reservist and member of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment’s C Company, has joined a high-tech effort led by an international charity to halt the illegal hunting of endangered animals in South Africa.
Deployed by Veterans for Wildlife (V4W) – a volunteer-based organization that connects trained men and women who’ve served in the military to conservation projects in Africa – Kinsman will assist in monitoring an “innovative wide area surveillance system,” aimed at tracking the presence of poachers in Kruger National Park, stated a news release from the non-profit group.
The park – home to a wealth of wildlife – is a hotbed for the illegal hunting of rhinos, pursued by poachers looking to cash in on the lucrative sale of their horns which are traded internationally through black markets.
For Kinsman, the two-week long undertaking offers him a chance to combine his military experience with a lifelong passion.
“It gives me an opportunity to use some of the skills I’ve gained over the last 11 years or so, but also kind of couples with the opportunity to go somewhere and contribute to protecting a wildlife population. That’s another interest I have,” Kinsman told Yellowknifer last week.
“(Conservation) is something I’ve always been interested in, both in my personal life and in my civilian employment,” the 32-year-old added.
Kinsman, who grew up in Kingston, Ont., works as a fishery officer for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in Yellowknife, where he has lived for the past six years.
Kinsman’s expertise and an eagerness to put his passion to practice converged when Kinsman, who’d been reading and watching documentaries about poaching in Africa, reached out to V4W.
The “Postcode Meerkat” surveillance operation, developed by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, will see Kinsman help helm a system that uses “smart thinking technology,” to detect and differentiate poachers from animals in the park.
If a hunter is spotted, Kinsman and other “watch-keepers,” will alert ready-to-respond anti-poaching forces stationed in the park.
Volunteers who have previously offered a helping hand in monitoring the system – which employs the use of radar and electro-optic sensors to catch its targets – have succeeded in thwarting several poaching attempts by unwanted hunters, according to the V4W news release.
Kinsman, who has wanted to travel to Africa for years, will be the first Canadian to embark on a V4W-led mission – a milestone the military man-turned conservationist called an “honour.”
Kinsman said he’s excited to see what the experience will bring.
“Most of all I’m really just hoping to meet and work with a bunch of different people from different backgrounds. It’s very exciting to go to a place I’ve read about a lot over the years,” said Kinsman, adding he wants to “challenge himself” during his time in Kruger National Park.