Several unknown individuals murdered one of South Africa’s best rhinoceros protectors in his own home in July.
On July 26, a group of people entered the home of Anton Mzimba and murdered him in front of his family. Mzimba’s wife sustained injuries in the incident, but all their children managed to escape further violence, The South African reported.
And while police are still pursuing suspects, the motivation for the killing seems clear: Mzimba spent his entire career protecting rhinos.
For 25 years, he served as one of the most effective field rangers at South Africa’s Timbavati Private Nature Reserve.
Now, in the wake of his murder, the Global Conservation Corps (GCC) has launched the Anton Mzimba Education Trust.
The fund will raise money for the future education of Mzimba’s children. It will also “continue his life’s long-term passion of educating and inspiring neighboring youth to love wildlife as he did,” the GCC said in a press release.
A Passion for Protecting Animals
In his long career as a ranger, Anton Mzimba became known as one of the very best to hold the office in South Africa.
In fact, the GCC had just finished a full-length documentary about Mzimba called “Rhino Man” before he was killed. Mzimba worked as a Technical Advisor to the nonprofit, and as Head of Ranger Services for Timbavati Private Nature Reserve.
The film follows Mzimba and his ranger team over several years, conveying the dangers they face on a daily basis to protect endangered species.
“You need someone who has a passion for being a field ranger,” he said in the film. “This is our calling. This is our mission. This is our legacy.”
Mzimba attained many qualifications in his career. He completed the highest levels of management training at the Southern African Wildlife College. He also won the coveted Field Ranger of the Year award at the annual Rhino Awards in 2016.
His memorial service took place on July 31, which also commemorates World Ranger Day.
“He always said he knew the risks,” said John Jurko II, GCC Creative Director and “Rhino Man” filmmaker. “He knew the risks of being a ranger and of sharing his story. But that doesn’t change the fact that his loss is devastating. He could have done so much more. All we can do now is mourn his passing, thank him for his life’s work, and honor his legacy by carrying his torch forward.”
A Crucial Moment for Rhinos
Mzimba understood the importance of educating young people in his community about connecting with nature. To that end, he helped the GCC start a Future Rangers program in 2017.
The program supported Mzimba’s mission by providing children access to safaris, conservation education programs, and potential work placement within the greater wildlife economy.
Yet the future of the rhinoceros population he sought to protect remains uncertain. A single rhino horn sells for up to $200,000 on the black market. As a result, poachers are still killing these animals at a rate of one to two per day, according to the GCC.
Often, the group said, rhinos live in areas with unemployment rates over 50%. So despite efforts from rangers like Mzimba, rhinos could become extinct in less than 20 years.
“This economic disparity has created the conditions for crime syndicates to recruit locals into poaching rhinos for profit,” the GCC wrote.
In February 2021, Mzinga told the Voices of Nature podcast why he became a ranger in the first place.
“Being a ranger is something that, for me as a Christian, is very important…. We have to take care of the animals, the fish in the sea, and the birds in the sky. This is what makes the profession a special one.”