Former soldier from Cannock travels to South Africa to work with orphaned rhinos
A former soldier from Staffordshire has visited South Africa to work with orphaned rhinos in a unique project.
Chris Corbett, from Cannock, served for eight years in the Army before leaving as a corporal in the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment in 2013.
During his service, he was injured by shrapnel from an IED in a tour of Iraq in May 2007.
The 31-year-old has just visited the Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary in South Africa for two weeks as part of a charity project, Footprints of Hope, sponsored by Lord Ashcroft, the international businessman and philanthropist.
The trip was arranged by the UK-based Veterans for Wildlife charity, which seeks to combat poaching.
Chris, who has a partner and two-year-old daughter, struggled with aggression and depression after leaving the military, and was eventually diagnosed with complex PTSD.
When still in South Africa, Chris said: “This course is giving me a routine and a new direction. Everyone really gets along and finds it really easy to talk about our traumas, instead of hiding them and keeping them in. I have enjoyed every minute of it.
“Because of our own problems, we can relate to the traumas that the baby rhinos are suffering from. We have all bonded with the young rhinos, they all have their own characteristics.”
Chris, who now works as a construction manager, was one of five veterans to travel to a location near the Kruger National Park - its exact whereabouts are kept secret in case the rhino sanctuary is targeted by poachers.
The veterans worked with baby rhinos, who had been orphaned after their mothers had been killed by poachers for their valuable horn.
The rhinos included one called Rainbow, who was just two months old.
The project involved Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), whereby humans work with animals in order to enhance and complement traditional therapy. The five veterans are being monitored by a clinical psychologist and the early signs are that they have all benefitted from the project.
Lord Ashcroft, formerly treasurer and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, said that he has sponsored the project because of his interest in both military veterans and wildlife conservation.
He was the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Veterans’ Transition, helping those leaving the Armed Forces make the transition to civilian life, until resigning his position last year.
Lord Ashcroft, who travelled to South Africa to observe the project in action, said: “Without doubt, the veterans have benefitted enormously from the project as, of course, have the rhinos that they looked after around the clock. Indeed they have helped each other with their respective healing processes.
“The five veterans are a courageous and determined group and my respect for them is immense. I certainly hope that their experiences have left them better equipped to face whatever challenges the future holds.”