This Kruger cowboy’s rugged exterior hides a heart of gold. Coming from a line of distinguished medical professionals, Joey Vermeulen’s father was horrified at his son declining his acceptance into medical school to follow his bush dreams. But the call of the wild was too strong to ignore, and Joey knew he had to be true to himself even if this meant disappointing his family.
Passionate about his profession and beloved park, Joey takes a keen interest in every aspect of his surroundings. He becomes visibly upset when describing how poaching is tarnishing his profession and destroying the natural heritage in so many parts of the world.
Thanks to his role as a guide, Joey is able to contribute towards the protection of our wildlife. He has paid homage to all of the ‘Big 5’ animals giving birth and killing their prey. I ask what he would still like to witness in the Kruger National Park and his answer is very specific – an Impala giving birth. Apart from these dramatic sightings, he follows the everyday activities of the park with equal attentive enthusiasm. With a zoom lens to be envied, Joey is an avid and excellent photographer of birds and game of the park.
His favourite creatures are the beautiful painted wolves (wild dog), and Joey has names for every one of the local pack which travels vast distances around his terrain at Rhino Post Safari Lodge. He is concerned about Sparky the leader, who is getting old for the demanding role of leading the pack and he watches in alarm when the number of the latest litter of puppies declines, as the wild dog are both hunters and hunted. I am thankful that there is such a person as this, following their lives like a caring father.
And of his own family, I wonder? Joey explains that despite his initial shock, his own father has come around to his son’s chosen career and recently expressed great pride in what Joey is doing and has already achieved. His father has even asked Joey to come home and manage a game farm in their community, but I suspect that it would take a lot to pull this young man away from his furry friends and family at the park. I rather hope, with no disrespect, that he once again has the courage to stay the course and remain with his heart in the bushveld of the Kruger National Park, one of the largest, greatly beloved and protected reserves in Africa.