A YOUNG Poole man who volunteered in South Africa to protect Rhinos from poachers has held a special event to highlight the plight of the animals.

Before the coronavirus crisis, Henry Clark – who says poaching has increased exponentially since the start of lockdown – spent a month on the ground in South Africa working with a team from the International Coalition of Rhino Protection (ICORP) to disrupt efforts of poachers.

The 19-year-old, who was forced to leave the country six-weeks early due to the outbreak of Covid-19, said: "There were visible and tangible successes.

"When we first arrived to operate on the collection of reserves we were protecting, we had several instances each night where multiple gangs were entering the reserves, mostly to hunt with packs of dogs, spears, machetes etc however there was instances of snare poaching.

"We removed an active bush kitchen and snares as well as encountering gangs of poachers and deterring them very successfully."

By the time the ICORP team moved on from those reserves, Henry says there were no active poaching groups operating on them.

However, bordering reserves had been absolutely decimated to the extent there was very little wildlife remaining on them, he added.

On Saturday, October 3, he held an event in the pedestrianised section of Bournemouth's Old Christchurch Road to highlight the work of ICORP, a not-for-profit organisation committed to protecting wildlife in Southern Africa, in particular rhinos, elephants and big cats.

Many among their ranks are former military and police personnel.

Henry, who is on a gap year, has ambitions to join the military.

He has been visiting family in Africa all of his life and first encountered people involved in anti-poaching while travelling across Africa with a schoolfriend last year.

Henry said: "Lockdown in South Africa has lead to an enormous increase in poaching and unfortunately these poachers are becoming more desperate and therefore more dangerous.

"Only a couple of a days after I left, my unit captured four poachers on a new reserve who were armed with bows and arrows and knives along with other poaching tools.

"We recognised their spoor (track or scent) from our initial reserves which demonstrated that these are highly mobile professional criminals operating over large areas."