Glen Steyn: From Middle East fighter to rhino protector

Glen Steyn: From Middle East fighter to rhino protector

2022-01-15 07:01:00 AM

Glen Steyn: From Middle East fighter to rhino protector

Steyn trains men and women across Africa – using the skills he acquired during his time in the military, to help combat the continent’s poaching crisis.

These days, though, the decorated ex-corporal is fighting in the trenches of a different kind of war: the war on poaching. A counter-poaching consultant, “My mom always said to treat people less fortunate than you well, to treat women right and to be kind to animals,” he says.

The process of enrolling was lengthy and took about 18 months. After that came the training.In 2016, Steyn resigned from the British Royal Marines with the intention of joining the Australian forces but his plans ended up falling through – leaving him shovelling sand on a building site in England in mid-winter and trying to understand how he had ended up there.

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WAR VETERAN. Glen Steyn speaks to Saturday Citizen about the anti-poaching training programme he does all over Africa. Pictures: Nigel Sibanda and supplied As a former member of the British Royal Marines, Glen Steyn served on two tours to Afghanistan as part of an elite unit tasked with effecting high-profile arrests. These days, though, the decorated ex-corporal is fighting in the trenches of a different kind of war: the war on poaching. A counter-poaching consultant, Steyn was born and bred on the West Rand and attended King Edward VII School. From a young age, his parents– both... As a former member of the British Royal Marines, Glen Steyn served on two tours to Afghanistan as part of an elite unit tasked with effecting high-profile arrests. These days, though, the decorated ex-corporal is fighting in the trenches of a different kind of war: the war on poaching. A counter-poaching consultant, Steyn was born and bred on the West Rand and attended King Edward VII School. From a young age, his parents – both chartered accountants – instilled in him the importance of kindness and of respect. “My mom always said to treat people less fortunate than you well, to treat women right and to be kind to animals,” he says. After he matriculated in 2002, Steyn spent two years living and working in England before returning home and becoming a personal trainer. But he eventually became bored of spending all his time indoors. “I had two friends from school who had joined the British Royal Marines and my uncle was also in the military, so I thought I’d give that a go and that maybe I’d have a bit of adventure in life,” he says. The process of enrolling was lengthy and took about 18 months. After that came the training. “It’s tough obviously,” says Steyn – adding about 80% of those who start end up dropping out. But he stuck it out, never losing sight of his ultimate goal of getting to Afghanistan – and eventually realising this after being deployed to the Special Forces Support Group. “We were basically responsible for arresting high-ranking Taliban leaders so it was quite busy,” he says, “You’d get your orders, prepare the next day and then the following day you’d fly out. Then you’d come back and get a day, or maybe two, off, before getting new orders”. In 2016, Steyn resigned from the British Royal Marines with the intention of joining the Australian forces but his plans ended up falling through – leaving him shovelling sand on a building site in England in mid-winter and trying to understand how he had ended up there. ALSO READ: 24 rhinos killed in South Africa since beginning of December He decided to try his hand in private security – a common route for ex-combatants. He did a short stint working at sea, providing security for ships against piracy. But, again, he found himself becoming bored. So he decided to take to the road with another ex-marine and walk the length of the Orange River – becoming the first two men to complete the gruelling 2 500km trek – to raise funds for Veterans for Wildlife. This is an international charity started by a friend of Steyn’s, which is committed to protecting critically endangered species and preserving ecosytems, and to countering the global illegal wildlife trade. And that was how he first got involved in the work he currently does. “After we had finished, my friend brought me on board as a project coordinator and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he says. “When I left the military, I had a tough time. I had lost all my mates and I felt like I didn’t have a purpose. But this really makes me feel like I’m doing something of purpose, it’s incredibly rewarding,” he says. ALSO READ:  Three rhino poachers sentenced to 85 years imprisonment Steyn has always had an affinity for the outdoors but says it wasn’t until he started this journey that he really fell in love with wildlife. “Being on foot and seeing the big five up close and personal – that really hooked me,” he explains. Rhinos have a particularly special place in Steyn’s heart. They’re just some of the most peaceful, majestic animals ever,” he says. And, he says, he didn’t realise the scale of the poaching problem until he started working in this field – recalling the first rhino carcass he encountered on the job and the impact it had on him, describing it as a sobering moment. Sometimes, says Steyn, he feels despondent. “But there are moments that are incredibly rewarding, where you feel like you’re really making a difference – also from the point of view that you’re empowering the people you train and equipping them to be able to feed their families,” he says. Asked what kind of a legacy he hopes to leave, Steyn says simply he would like to be remembered for doing something with a purpose. “A purpose greater than me,” he adds. –