Jackson Kamwi is the senior rhino monitor with the Lowveld Rhino Trust. His job is to use his bushcraft skills to track rhinos so that they can be reported on or else can be captured for one reason or another. Kamwi, aged 52, was involved as a tracker in many of the rhino capture operations with National Parks teams working in the Zambezi Valley in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Despite his tracking skills, he was then assigned to driving trucks for the Park authority.
At this stage the need for his skills for finding rhinos rather than driving trucks was appreciated by the staff of the project that has now become the Lowveld Rhino Trust. So Kamwi was recruited to work as a rhino monitor in 1996 and has been in that job ever since.
Kamwi says “ the rhinos are my cattle”. He knows many rhinos individually since he implements the system that is used in the Lowveld of giving each rhino a name and regularly photographing the animal as proof of identification.
Raoul du Toit, recounts experiences when Kamwi’s deep understanding of rhino behaviour has made all the difference in rhino capture operations. “Once we were trying to find a single rhino in an insecure area from which we needed to translocate it to Save Valley Conservancy”, says du Toit. “We were running out of daylight and although Jackson Kamwi and his team were following the rhino’s spoor it was moving too fast to catch up with. It could have been anywhere ahead of the trackers, in an expanse of hills and valleys and I couldn’t find it with my aircraft, flying ahead of the trackers”. Du Toit says he made the decision to get the team’s helicopter to collect Kamwi and asked him to use his knowledge of rhino behaviour to guess where it might have gone. “He indicated to the pilot where he should search and within twenty minutes he had located the rhino, based purely on his instincts”.
The close work with rhinos is not without danger and Kamwi has been injured by rhinos several times. In one encounter with an irate black rhino in Save Valley, he says “I asked my feet to take me away, but my speed on two legs was not as fast as the animal with four legs”. Although he was butted by the rhino, Kamwi was back tracking rhinos within a week.