Wild ventures to three different protected areas to meet a few rangers. Why did they follow a career in conservation and what are some of their favourite wild spots? Meet Carmen, Samuel and Nkosinathi. By Janine Stephen

Carmen Gagiano

Section ranger, West Coast National Park

Yeas on the job: 9

Special knowledge: Herpetology. Carmen focused on girdled lizards and frogs for her zoology honours. Only two species of frog have been found in the park, the river frog and clicking stream frog, but “we have Cape girdled lizards and lots of skinks and geckos”.

Early days: Carmen’s parents both loved nature and when she was a child they’d visit Bontebok National Park and camp on the Garden Route.

Favourite place: Tsaarsbank, on the wild Atlantic Ocean coast, “a long beach, with beautiful waves crashing against the rocks”.

If you’re lucky, [you’ll see] a caracal or honey badger. I’ve seen only one honey badger in nine years. It was such a thrill.
– Carmen Gagiano

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Carmen Gagiano in her element at Tsaarsbank in West Coast National Park. Pictures by Janine Stephen

Samuel Mathebula

Field ranger, Mapungubwe National Park

Years on the job: 20

Special knowledge: Veld lore and the medicinal uses of plants and trees, such as using leaves from the devil’s thorn as soap.

Early days: Samuel grew up in Giyani. He never attended school, but speaks nine languages. He has worked as a tracker in the army and as a field ranger in Kruger.

Favourite place: Mapungubwe Hill. “It was a place where people planned the future. They carried all that soil up there to grow crops. Those people worked hard. The kings who stayed at the top could see far and defend themselves from other soldiers.”

If you want to work with people, you can’t make them afraid. You must make them laugh and work with you. The community can be your eyes.
– Samuel Mathebula

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Master tracker Samuel Mathebula

Nkosinathi Moyo

Field ranger, Anysberg Nature Reserve

Years on the job: 7

Special knowledge: Trained tourist guide who also takes guests stargazing and on two-day horse trails.

Early days: Nkosinathi was born near Kwa-Mashu township in KwaZulu-Natal and started Grade One only when he was 11 and his family moved to Paarl. After matriculating and working at a fast food outlet for two years, he applied for the CapeNature Youth Service Programme.

Favourite place: The remote Tapfontein area, “because you getto see animals and plants that you don’t see on the other side”.

I love doing this job. It provides for my family and I get to work outdoors.
– Nkosinathi Moyo

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Nkosinathi saved up for driving lessons to become a field ranger.

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