Gaining a GCC scholarship has been a life-changing opportunity for many young people. We talk to Hlulani Ngomane about how this chance has allowed him to follow his dream of working in the bush with animals as well as providing for his family during COVID-19.
Matt Lindenberg: What inspired you to become a ranger?
Hlulani Ngomane: I like conservation a lot, nature is beautiful. We survive because of nature. There is the creation of jobs, we also get medicine from plants, so I like everything about nature and I want to protect it.
ML: How did you hear about the Future Rangers Scholarship Fund?
HN: I saw it on Whatsapp, so I clicked on the link which directed me to Google for information. There were some questions to answer, so I answered them, and I got a message saying they would get back to me. I then received an email and went for an interview.
ML: The selection process was really hard physically, how did you cope?
HN: It wasn’t so hard until we got to the last training sessions and then it became really tough. The bag was the hardest.
ML: What did you enjoy most about the selection process?
HN: The running. I was number one on two occasions on the first day – I came in first in the morning and then again in the afternoon. And the following day, I was number two.
ML: How do you stay so strong and fit?
HN: I exercise at home in the garage. I do pushups and I have weights and I work out for 30 to 45 minutes every morning before breakfast.
ML: When you received the email inviting you to come for selection, how did you feel?
HN: I was so happy to have this opportunity because there are a lot of people out there looking for this kind of opportunity, but they don’t get the chance, so since I was one of the lucky ones, I was very happy and excited.
ML: Who did you tell first?
HN: My sister. She was also really excited.
ML: What is it about being a ranger that excites you the most?
HN: To be with the animals, as I said at the start, I really like animals, so I will enjoy being in the bush.
ML: You are one of the fittest guys here. How important is it for you to be in good shape?
HN: Being fit enables you to live a lot longer. For the job of a ranger, you need to be fit. If you meet one of the Big Five, you can quickly find yourself in a dangerous situation. You don’t know how they are going to react to you, so that is one of the challenges. The other challenge is the poachers.
ML: What is the perception or understanding you have of poachers?
HN: I don’t really understand poachers because what they are doing is illegal. They are destroying nature for future generations.
ML: Are you nervous or scared about becoming a ranger?
HN: No, I am prepared to protect the animals, to die for something, rather than die for nothing.
ML: What advice would you give to a young person interested in following your path to be a ranger?
HN: I would advise them to do exercise every day because being a ranger takes a lot out of you and you must be really fit. You must also be patient and not give up easily.
ML: Your CV is very impressive. How important is education for you?
HN: Education makes us better people and we learn a lot at school. It is much easier to get a job when you are educated. Today every company wants you to have a certificate.
ML: What are you most excited about for your future?
HN: I think improving the situation at home since we lost our mom. I live with my brother and sister. My sister was working on a game reserve and because of coronavirus, she was suspended and sent home. This situation is hurting us so I am very happy because now I am going to be able to provide for the family.
ML: What has the training been like at the South African Wildlife College?
HN: I am learning a lot about the trees and the birds and their scientific names, as well as the behavior of the birds. I love learning about the bush and the animals that live there.
ML: Is there anything else you would like to add?
HN: I want to thank GCC for the opportunity to be here and sponsor us.