Johan Kloppers Part 4.
Johan mentioned a few experiences during his career.
He said that it is well known fact that it is better standing your ground to a charging Lion than to try and outsprint it. He put it to test during his first tenure at TSHOKWANE – him and of his Field rangers were in the veld looking for suitable places to scrape dams.
They were walking down a dry rivulet when all of a sudden he noticed something under a bit of rock – it was a Lioness with her newborn – less than two metres away, watching the leading Ranger carrying Johan’s rifle – quite unaware of the golden mother, Johan walked on he looking in the opposite direction also indicating to the following Ranger to look away from the mother.
Even today he is still convinced that their saving grace that day was that the Lioness was not aware that she had been noticed by them, they all passed the Lioness without her showing any reaction.
He told that experience had taught him that an animal would make the choice of either fleeing or attacking, the moment it realised that its camouflage had been compromised.
The Lioness could not flee and with her cubs close by would have had no alternative than to attack very aggressively.
Johan mentioned that during his first year at TUKS he also took Zoology and Botany as subjects which later came in very handy during his employment in KRUGER. He said that had he had more theoretical education he most probably would have been a better Ranger.
Johan mentioned that very often he advertised Rangers position just because he had to, how was it humanly possible to sift through more than two thousand applications for the advertised position; he always kept “possibles” from previous applicants and then found a few more for interviews, his gut feel seldomnly let him down after an appointment.
Area Rangers first had to start off as a Trails Ranger, they had to have a very thorough knowledge of the fauna and the flora as they had to be able to answer the questions by trailists.
Very often Section Rangers temporarily go back to basics while relieving as Trail Rangers.
Unfortunately too many people even today still are under the impression that if you have a rifle in your hand, you can be a Trails Ranger – nothing is further away from the truth – being a Trails ranger is also not a booby prize, it is a stepping stone.
Before one can become a Trails Ranger one has to study and prepare yourself mentally and physically.
Part of the procedure is to shoot a charging Elephant which is being herded on by a helicopter – he recalls the evaluation of the late Sam Fourie.
The helicopter could be heard in the distance Sam and the late Bruce Bryden and Johan were together. The noise became louder and louder and then the selected Elephant came into sight, running in their direction – Sam calmly looked on and then asked whether he must really shoot and kill this beautiful animal, Bruce answered in the affirmative, the Elephant still came, Bruce was about to shoot when Sam reluctantly raised his rifle and squeezed the trigger – the grey colossus dropped about five metres from the three men.
Bruce was quite angry with Sam and amongst others told Sam that he nearly caused him – Bruce a heart attack. Sam replied that he had hoped that he would just in time be instructed not to shoot and give way for the fleeing Elephant to pass. He thought he had proven that he had enough nerve by just standing his ground.
Unfortunately Rangers have to prove that they can stand their ground and fire accurately when danger is threatening human lives whether it is a Buffalo or an Elephant or a Lion or a Leopard or a Rhino or a Hippo or whatever.
The test was not to see whether he could shoot to kill – it was to see whether he was going to run away and leave those in his care to be killed. . . . .
Johan mentioned that Ampie Espag while at NWANETSI, and himself at SATARA became great friends, their families regularly visited one another. Ampie although not very well educated in a class room just had the natural qualities of an excellent Ranger his qualities were second to none.
Johan started as a Junior Ranger and was later promoted to Ranger then to Section Ranger and later to District Ranger and then to Senior Ranger followed by Chief Ranger and then to Deputy Director of Nature Conservation of the National Parks Board.
He said that he should have remained a District Ranger as he soon discovered that an office job was not his forte, he loved spending his time in the veld. This is where was at his happiest – not in an office putting pen to paper or rolling up red tape attending to trivialities.
Johan retired during 1993 and moved to Mtunzini where the climate suited him best. However he has recently for health and personal reasons moved back to Nelspruit where he still enjoys the Lowveld.
He said that when he retired he was finished; he did not interfere as he has enough trust in his successors to know that their hearts are where they should be.
He knows that Johan Oelofse and Don English and Steven Whitfield and Louis Olivier together with the Ranger Training Colleges are training up the new generation of Rangers who one day with sufficient experience will be as good as any. Of those mentioned grew up in the Park, learning from their fathers – now they have the opportunity to share their knowledge with others . . . . .
Maybe one day you will be fortunate enough to come across a fine Elephant bull with impressive symmetrical tusks the left slightly longer than the right, with relatively clean ears maybe you will notice some small vee shaped notches in the left ear in the lower parts with a small hole near the lower notch - roaming the area between SKUKUZA and KRUGER GATE – also named – Madolo, as a tribute to this remarkable man – whose footprints cover most of this wonderful place.
Here is a photograph of the award to Johan Kloppers – a precious silver Kudu head set on soap stone - sculptured by Coert Steynberg for thirty years of loyal service.
Here below are some of the badges worn by Johan Kloppers the man who spent the period 1955 to 1993 in the KRUGER PARK,
the original Rangers badge.
the current set used
all the badges including the 30 year commemoration of the Wilderness Trails.
of the man who most probably knows KRUGER better than anyone else – the humble doyen of many of the Rangers of yesteryear and well respected by everyone who came to know him, myself included