On a wintery Saturday last month, Neels van Wyk, section ranger, at Crocodile Bridge, was called by his field rangers to Halfkroon Spruit where a buffalo calf was caught in a snare. Inspecting the scene, Neels and his dog, Boesman, found the calf still alive, and its mother lingering about. Under normal circumstances, in cases like these, the ranger would put the animal out of its misery.
With this calf, Neels saw that although its leg was firmly caught, it was not broken. He decided to go closer but the cow would not let him. On his instruction, Boesman diverted the cow’s attention, allowing Neels to get a rope around the calf, pull it to ground and hastily remove the snare. “The calf thanked us with a spectacular charge when it got up before it took off with its mother,” says Neels.
Rangers are allowed dogs in the KNP for specific reasons. “They act as an early warning system when we encounter dangerous game especially on foot patrols. They also assist us when dealing with the follow up of wounded or problem animals,” says Neels. He believes this was a textbook example of how Boesman saved the life of the calf and protected the rangers in the process.
“This was not the first time,” says Neels. On this trip, Scotty Stewart, chairman of the board of the Rhodesian ridgeback international foundation and another ridgeback enthusiast from Canada Steven Woodum happened to accompany them.
Neels says Scotty often visits the Park as there are a number of ridgebacks in Kruger. He got Boesman about four years ago. Neels was a Wilderness trails ranger at Boesman trail before being appointed as a section ranger. The dog is named after Boesman wilderness trail. He has another ridgeback called Shana.