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SEAL battles poachers to save rhinos

Apr. 27, 2013 - 10:53AM   |  
Animal Planet
Jeff 'Biggs' Wobig is a SEAL in the Navy Reserve who also fights to protect the black rhino population from poachers. (Animal Planet)
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Bonus Fact

Wobig, who is married and has three daughters, also created and sells a camouflage diaper bag called the Daddy GO Bag. No man should have to carry around a bag with flowers on it, he says.

While special operators typically protect Americans, Jeff “Biggs” Wobig and his friends have branched out to another population: rhinos.

Wobig, a 29-year-old special warfare operator first class, is a SEAL in the Navy Reserve. He’s also a newly minted TV star.

He spent six weeks in South Africa as part of the Animal Planet miniseries “Battleground: Rhino Wars.” The show debuted last month, but you can also track their missions online at AnimalPlanet.com.

Wobig, a sniper, was joined by former SEALs Craig “Saw” Sawyer and Rob Roy, and a former Green Beret who went by “Oz.” The four men protected the black rhinos from poachers, who kill the animal for its horn and are driving the beasts to extinction. The horns are often smuggled into Asia, where they are in high demand due to a legend the horn can cure cancer, a network release said. Doctors have said the horn, made of keratin, has no curative properties.

Last year, almost 700 rhinos and 100 park rangers lost their lives because of poaching.

Wobig serves with a San Diego-based SEAL unit. His past deployments include Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines. He spoke with Military Times by phone April 3:

Q. As the sniper on the Rhino Wars team, what specifically was your job?

A. People think of snipers as shooters, as pulling the trigger. The pulling the trigger part is the one millisecond at the end of a really hard job. So my skill set as a sniper is a lot of field skills, building hides, camouflaging stuff, surveillance, reconnaissance, and then ultimately, I was the point man for us. I looked for any signs of poachers, any signs of the animals that could be a threat to us or any dangers looming in the environment. That’s my job as a sniper. It’s 90 percent suck and 10 percent glory.

Q. What do you respect most about the rhino?

A. I’m a big fan of hunting, and I think hunters are some of the biggest conservationists in the world. But as far as the rhino goes, when you see a rhino, it’s really the closest thing to a dinosaur that I’ve seen on land. People say, what’s a rhino like? A rhino is like a rhino; there’s nothing else like it. Once we get rid of them, there’s nothing that you can compare it to. They’re tanks with horns. The sad but true thing about a rhino is it’s really not that smart; they don’t see very well. They’re kind of like a big dumb dog when you’re around them; they’re funny, they make you laugh and [they] do funny stuff. It’s definitely not something I could bring myself to want to harm.

Q. What do you hope people take away from the TV show?

A. There is a problem, and it’s an easy problem to fix. We’re just four guys, and we made a pretty big impact over there. Seven crime syndicates were actually taken down after we left from intel we gathered while we were there. The things that we taught the South Africans have helped them to continue to have success.

Q. What’s your day job now?

A. I own a security business called CTS Solutions; it’s Consulting, Training and Security Solutions. Right now, I’m teaching teamwork and leadership in critical situations. I just enjoy helping people out. I do sniper courses and small-arms tactics courses, so I teach shooting. I’m able to let people realize that their goals are extremely achievable in marksmanship. I get a lot of people who want to come out; they think that making a long shot is hard. If you just apply good fundamentals, they seem to do really well.

Q: Do you feel like you were in more danger in South Africa or during your time in the military as a SEAL?

A: If you’re in a life-threatening situation, it doesn’t matter if you’re on the highway or you’re overseas. That’s what I tell people when they say, “Oh my gosh, you’re going overseas, you’re going to die.” I’m like, well, you’re going on the highway, you have about the same chance of dying as I do. I just live my life minute by minute; whatever happens, I try to adjust to it and rely on my experiences to keep me alive. That’s for everyday life; it’s just self-preservation.

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