We can save a species and I be­lieve that we’re go­ing to do it

For­mer England crick­eter Kevin Pi­etersen, 38, has swapped Test runs for con­ser­va­tion as he shines a light on the world’s crit­i­cally en­dan­gered rhi­noc­eros pop­u­la­tion in Na­tional Geo­graphic doc­u­men­tary se­ries Save This Rhino. GEMMA DUNN finds out more

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How did you come to be in­volved with Save This Rhino?

I WANTED to cre­ate a film about con­ser­va­tion. I’ve been in­volved in it since 2013 and I needed to de­velop trust within the con­ser­va­tion world and (prove) that I was the real deal, in terms of want­ing to make a dif­fer­ence.

So it took a lot of time to re­ally get to the right peo­ple, for them to un­der­stand what I was try­ing to do and how I was go­ing to fit in un­der the radar to try to raise aware­ness.

It’s reached an Aus­tralian au­di­ence, as well as the UK. YEAH, it’s aired in Aus­tralia al­ready and the re­ac­tion was in­cred­i­ble.

I was in Aus­tralia and a com­pany that I was a global am­bas­sador for owned Na­tional Geo­graphic so I got set up with it in Aus­tralia and, to cut a long story short, we made a film and they bought in straight away.

Then the UK bought in and we’re in ne­go­ti­a­tions on a global level now so that we can show it ev­ery­where.

So it’s very much a pas­sion project for you, de­spite the global scale? THE gen­uine­ness that you see on screen, I think, is the only way to make a film.

We’re all friends and you know what? We’ve all got the same re­al­is­tic goal. We want to save the rhino.

This is not just a job. Some­one asked me: ‘Is there some­thing you want to do for the next 20-25 years?’ I said ‘no’.

If we can save the rhino to­mor­row, then I just want to go and play golf!

Petronel Nieu­woudt (founder of the Care for Wild Rhino Sanc­tu­ary) needs mes­sen­gers, she needs aware­ness, she needs peo­ple brand­ing what they do – that’s my job.

Your fo­cus is on the poach­ing war in South Africa’s Kruger Na­tional Park. How can peo­ple help here?

THE Bri­tish mar­ket is a big mar­ket – the pound goes a long way in South Africa when you con­vert it into rands so peo­ple do­nat­ing and be­ing gen­er­ous can re­ally make a dif­fer­ence.

We can save a species. There is an op­por­tu­nity, fi­nan­cially, to put the tech­nol­ogy in place in the southern part of the Kruger to make it a safe haven for an­i­mals. So we can do it and we be­lieve that we’re go­ing to do it.

How did you keep your emo­tions in check and how im­por­tant was it to show view­ers the truth, de­spite its bru­tal­ity?

YOU never ever get over the numb­ness when you’ve seen a dead an­i­mal and you know that it has ab­so­lutely no medic­i­nal value and no bear­ing at all on life.

You never get de­sen­si­tised to what you’re see­ing and what you’re smelling.

That smell, it touches your clothes or gets on to your shoe or on to your fin­gers ... it was ev­ery­where.

(The bru­tal scenes) are there to shock peo­ple. I do that on so­cial me­dia dia all the time, I put up the most graphic things on In­sta­gram to say ‘lis­ten, this is what’s hap­pen­ing’. I’m not go­ing to hide against it.

What did you learn from mak­ing the doc­u­men­tary?

I WANTED to just an­swer all ques­tions so I needed to un­der­stand what peo­ple were go­ing to ask. Be­cause they were go­ing to ask about poach­ers, pi­lots and the rangers, they were go­ing to ask about Petronel and what she does. They were go­ing to ask about the poor peo­ple, tech­nol­ogy, ev­ery­thing, so we needed to cover all bases.

We made sure we were ev­ery­where we were asked to be and we re­spected the space to do a good job but we also en­com­passed ex­actly what was go­ing on.

That’s what peo­ple need to see, hear and read.

This ven­ture is worlds away from your for­mer cricket ca­reer. How has the transition made you re-eval­u­ate your path?

I JUST love the fact that we are just

com­pletely un­der the radar now and I don’t have the bravado of in­ter­na­tional sport.

(Res­cued rhino) Arthur doesn’t have a clue who I am – in eight years’ time I wouldn’t be able to go into his pen.

And when I walk out of my bal­cony (in South Africa) and there’s buffalo, they don’t know how many Test runs I got.

I love that I can just be sub­servient, sort of, to na­ture and spend a lot of time bring­ing my chil­dren up in the bush.

How do you and your fam­ily split your time be­tween your UK home and your lodge in the Kruger?

WE LIVE in Sur­rey, the kids’ school is here, but we’re a hop, skip and a jump from the lodge so if we don’t like what’s go­ing on, weather-wise, we’re like: ‘Right, we’re outta here. Off to Heathrow.’

We built a lodge in the Kruger to go ‘this is what life’s all about’. It’s a great ed­u­ca­tion for the kids.

■ Save This Rhino is on Na­tional Geo­graphic on Mon­day at 10pm.

I put up the most graphic things on In­sta­gram to say ‘lis­ten, this is what’s hap­pen­ing’... Kevin Pi­etersen, above, and in his se­ries, Save This Rhino, above left

Kevin with his wife, for­mer Liberty X sing Jessica Tay­lor

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