Going to ‘Rhino War’
Paonia sniper joins team fighting rhino poaching
Near the town of Paonia, a mile off Colorado Highway 133, in the shadow of the West Elk Mountains, lives one of this country’s best shooters.
His first name is Jeff, but you can call him “Biggs.” It’s a nickname he picked up with the U.S. Navy SEALs.
Biggs, an active SEAL from 2002–09 and now a Navy SEAL reservist, was part of a four-man team of former and current U.S. special forces chosen for the three-part TV series “Battleground: Rhino Wars,” premiering Thursday, March 7, on Animal Planet.
The team includes former SEALs “Saw” and Rob and a Green Beret member, “Oz.”
Each man selected possessed the skill set and training in unconventional warfare to help in the fight against rhinoceros poachers. Biggs has expertise as a sniper, breacher and communicator, Animal Planet said.
In fact, Biggs also was one of 10 members of the U.S. special forces community selected for Maxim magazine’s recent Maximum Warrior 3 challenge.
In South Africa for “Rhino Wars.” Biggs and his teammates “survey the situation, train the anti-poaching corps, exchange tactical information and go on the front lines…,” according to Animal Planet.
“Rhino Wars” is set in undisclosed parts of South Africa’s Greater Kruger area where rhinoceros and, sometimes, park rangers, are being killed at an alarming rate, Animal Planet said.
Now that Biggs, 29, has returned from South Africa — the series was filmed in summer 2012 — he’s ready for the shows to air, not because he’s excited to be on TV, but because he’s hopeful the show will shine a spotlight on the tragic scenes he saw.
“I’m in it for the cause,” Biggs said. “You only get one shot. None of us are capable of bringing animals back from extinction ... I’m willing to sacrifice putting my ugly mug on TV to make people realize what’s going on.”
In the first episode, titled “Bring In The Big Guns,” viewers won’t have to wait long to see the magnitude of the task, and they will see how emotionally invested the team became, immediately.
“It definitely went from being a job to being an emotional connection to the animals in the wild,” Biggs said. “It’s an inexplicable feeling.”
The Paonia man had never been to South Africa or seen a rhinoceros in the wild before filming the Animal Planet series. As the father of three young girls, who know their daddy went “over there to save the rhinos,” Biggs admitted the mission, although not directly tied to the protection of his family or American freedoms, is an important one, considering poachers are not only illegally killing rhinos for their horns but also killing rangers who try to intervene.
“There is no discrimination between animal life or human life,” Biggs said. “It’s an evil person who will stop at nothing to fulfill the greed.”
Biggs couldn’t divulge specific experiences on the show, including encounters with poachers and dangerous situations.
However, he noted that unlike many of the “reality shows” on TV today, there was no script for “Rhino Wars.” The footage was edited for time, but camera crews “had no control.”
“I hope that we can pull away from the American culture of watching the drunken stupidity of mind-numbing TV and put meaning behind the world,” he said.
The mission in South Africa left such an impression on Biggs he already has committed to returning at some point to continue helping rangers and law enforcement fight poachers. He gave his word. He hopes he’s not alone.
“They need our help,” he said. “With anything, when you put life to a mission, that’s when you heart gets on board. And watch out.”