Douw "Swannie" Swanepoel, former Kruger section ranger renowned for bringing computer-age technology to the ancient art of tracking and for developing an electronic guide to the Kruger National Park, is currently waging a war against cancer.
Diagnosed last year, Swannie has had his stomach and oesophagus removed to fight a particularly aggressive cancer. Although Swannie has recovered remarkably his fight is far from over as he will face major surgery within the next month, before he can undergo essential and extensive chemotherapy treatment.
Swannie joined the park in 1982, and spent time training field rangers before a brief stint as a trails ranger led him into the position of Mooiplaas section ranger. From 1983 to 2001, he served as a section ranger in Mooiplaas, Kingfisherspruit and Olifants, before being made redundant during Operation Prevail.
During his time in Kruger, he obtained his masters degree through study of the crocodiles in the Olifants River, and is a wellknown expert on crocodiles. One of his other passions is computing, and he was quick to recognise and promote to KNP management the importance of Cyber Tracker, a handheld computer that can be operated even by illiterate San trackers.
These little computers have become valuable tools in Kruger, where field rangers store a variety of information using Cyber Tracker for eventual inclusion into Kruger's ecological databases.
After leaving Kruger, Swannie developed an electronic guide to Kruger, which can be used in real time in conjunction with GPS technology. The guide not only provides information about camps and places of interest in the park, but includes information about birds, mammals, plants, insects and reptiles.
Swannie's six weeks in hospital, mostly in intensive care, resulted in enormous medical bills, and more are to follow if his stomach and oesophagus are to be reconstructed. His friends have got together to create the DGJ Swannepoel Trust, which is being independently audited, to try and help supplement Swannie's medical aid.
They are appealing for funds, as Swannie is likely to be unable to carry out his normal duties for most of 2006. Donations can be made to Absa Account number 9156562783, DGJ Swanepoel, Phalaborwa branch code 334-352 (electronic transfers 632005).
For more information about the trust please contact Mr de Wit de Villiers of Middel & Partners on 015 781 0560.