With the world commemorating World Ranger day on July 31 this year, we thought it fit to catch up with Patrick Mziyako (42), ranger from Jock Safari lodge, with over 12 years of experience in the field.
Mziyako started out his professional career in the bush at the age of 30, with his duties then being an assistant to a couple that worked with popular nature and wildlife show, 50-50. Before this however, Mziyako knew that his heart belonged in the bushveld, having grown up in close proximity to animals, due to his father’s job as a farmer.
“I come from a large family. There were 13 children that my father had to look after and by the time I matriculated in 1995, there weren’t opportunities like the National Financial Aid Scheme, so my father had to send us to tertiary from his own pocket. There were four of us who’d matriculated at the time,”Mziyako said.
Because of the lack in financial means, only two of the four children who completed matric managed to go to tertiary. Patrick, wasn’t one of them.
‘I then had to find a way to earn a living. Luckily for us, it was at a time when the country was undergoing a transition phase, and Black Economic Empowerment helped create jobs. I worked as a security guard, and it was tough, but I kept my dream alive,”he said.
He went through the most hardship to get to his goal today. He says through perseverance and the divine intervention, he finally found himself working as a ranger.
Today, he does two game drives a day, and is one of the finest ambassadors of South Africa to the millions of people that visit our shores to come experience our wildlife. He is knowledgeable because he’s an avid reader.
“There are several things that people looking to come into this field must know. You need to be patient, you need to love what you do, you need to learn to present yourself properly and also make sure you keep abreast with the news. Guests on a game drive will literally ask you anything about the country. You must have the answer, or the ability to research if you don’t know it,”he said.
A ranger and guests at Jock Safari enjoying the scenery during a game drive. Photo: Jock Safari Lodge
He also added that despite being knocked down by a buffalo and being charged by a lion, reinforced in him the principle of respecting wild animals.
‘’I have learnt that if you respect the animals, they will respect you too. I carry that around with me. Also, I never treat the bush like it’s my backyard, regardless of how comfortanble I am in it,”he said.
One of the disadvantages of the job however, is being away from home for long periods of time. Mziyako said he’d like to be home more often.
“I am a father of three. My boys are growing up and they are needing me more and more. This is something I want to do. If I can manage to be home and do my job, I will really appreciate that,”he said.