A couple of months ago I introduced our readers to an Animal Planet project called Rhino Wars. Not only was the three episode documentary a fun show to watch, but it is also a cause in which I have found myself deeply interested. Saving the rhino from unnecessary extinction at the hands of poachers is not an easy task. Not only does it take money and awareness, it takes men and women willing to place themselves in danger to stop evil men from profiting from the rhino horn.
In the documentary and in my original article for Soldier of Fortune Magazine, you were introduced to Craig, Jeff, Oz, and Rob – the Battleground: Rhino Wars team. After the show aired I was able to catch up with each member of the team and pick their brain about the project and see what they have been up to since leaving Africa. Jeff, AKA “Biggs”, a sniper and former SEAL, took time out of his busy schedule to field a few questions.
Question: Jeff, how did you got involved in the Rhino Wars project?
Biggs: “I was approached by Craig “Sawman” Sawyer. We had operated together in Iraq. Saw has a very impressive past and is a “locked on” operator. He told me he was looking to put a “stacked team” together for a possible anti-poaching project. Sawman (and the production company) could have chosen from about 200 other qualified guys for the slot. Needless to say, I was honored to be invited to the party.
“Like a lot of people I had no idea what was happening to our planet’s rhino population. Craig and I talked in-depth about the project. At first I was unsure about Animal Planet filming it, and my ugly mug eventually being on TV. But I’ll tell you what, when you start researching the problem and you realize you could help save a species from untimely extinction, you put your ugly mug where ever you need to get the job done. Luckily, the network thought I would also work well on camera. (laughing) I’m not sure how I pulled that one off.”
Question: Did you consider yourself a conservationist prior to this project with Animal Planet, or were you enticed by the dire situation faced by the rhino?
Biggs: “I am a firm believer that hunters are the biggest conservationists in the United States of America. I have been hunting for as long as I can remember. When I was old enough to start hunting big game I (with the help of my parents) started buying hunting licenses. Over the years I have spent a lot of money on making sure the animals that help feed my family stay around for as long as we do. In no way do I condone the useless slaughter of these animals. We as humans have done so much wildlife damagement that now wildlife management is our responsibility.
“I have always loved animals. I grew up with horses, chickens, pigs, goats, rabbits, cats and of course dogs. I was taught to respect them, and I do. A rhinoceros is an amazing animal. It is the closest thing to a dinosaur I have seen on land. They are truly amazing. My respect for all animals transfers to the rhinos. My efforts to protect them, well our team put it all on the line for ’em. Saw, Rob and Oz are all proven operators and we decided as a team that this was a cause worth fighting for.”
Question: Being a sniper, and working with the South African trackers, did you find commonalities between the two concepts of man-tracking? Were there any techniques that you learned while there, or impart any of your knowledge to the locals?
Biggs: “I’ve been tracking animals from the time I was a child. I remember when I was very young having my dog run away. There was snow on the ground and I was able to follow his tracks into a frozen ditch. I remember seeing the tracks from a rabbit and some bird tracks as well. You could see where the bird, which looking back was most likely a pheasant, had walked and then ran. Even at that age, I was probably five, I could tell my dog was chasing a rabbit and from the looks of it, he had scared this bird and made the bird run and eventually fly. I knew it flew because the tracks were deeper and then did not continue. I didn’t think much of that young experience until I was in South Africa and the trackers were explaining how they track.
“I have been taught quite a bit about man tracking in my line of work. But mostly it is just how to identify tracks and signs that tell you someone has been in the area. Maybe a sunburnt rock is belly up and all the others are black on top, or maybe an ant hill was kicked by a bored passerby. The South African trackers don’t read the track. They read the story much like I naturally did as a child. It was amazing to watch them work. I am pretty good at seeing signs but you can’t go down to 7-Eleven and buy a six pack of experience. These guys do this stuff all day every day. They are some of the best in the world. I learned that I still have a lot to learn.”
Question: Everyone says that Africa gets into your blood and that you are never the same after the experience. Did you find this true in your own experience?
Biggs: “To me Africa is just more proof that there is a creator and he has a great imagination!! It seems that everything in Africa can kill you. Fortunately, it is these environments that make me feel so alive! I don’t think I’m the only one that feels alive when surrounded by the astonishing bush. I think all men love the bush because deep down it brings out your primal instincts. South Africa is home to some very dangerous wildlife. Danger and beauty are two things that will definitely get my heart pumping. So I guess you can say it’s in my blood.”
Question: what are you up to now that the show has aired, and how are you dealing with your new found notoriety?
Biggs: “I currently own and operate a security business called CTS Solutions. CTS is for Consulting Training and Security. We actually specialize in Teamwork and Communicating in Critical Situations. I have a tactical diaper bag called the Daddy GO Bag. It’s awesome!! (daddygobag.com) I really like helping people out as much as I can. I teach small arms tactics and fundamentals as well. It keeps me up to par on my shooting skills and allows me to help a lot of amazing people reach goals that most of them don’t realize are achievable.
“I recently competed in Maxim magazine’s Maximum Warrior challenge. They take two spec ops guys from each special operations group and let them battle it out in 10 combat simulated events. It was a lot of fun and pretty intense. I was fortunate to claim the title of Maximum Warrior 2012. You can watch the whole thing online at maximumwarrior.com
“I don’t believe I take much notice to the notoriety. I have a great family and very supportive close friends. I’m really just an average guy. At best. This country has some amazing people. A lot of them are the men and women that will read this. That is notoriety enough for me. God bless those men and women. I just do the best job I possibly can and I try to live each day of life to its fullest.”
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