A brave safari guide is returning to one of the world’s most lawless countries despite being jailed, accused of murder and shot at during previous visits.
Plucky David Simpson has had a series of nightmarish experiences in the little-known Central African Republic.
The former French colony, which borders Cameroon, Sudan and The Republic Of Congo, is twice the size of the UK but is blighted by armed violence between rival rebel groups.
Yet David, 25, has flown back there, determined to fulfill his dream of building a nature reserve for endangered animals.
And he has the support of his proud mum Vicky, who told The Sunday Post: “It is dangerous there but I would worry just as much about him walking the streets of London.”
David first travelled to the strife-torn republic in 2011, to pilot a light aircraft tracking wildlife in the African savannah.
But in March 2012, while working for the game-hunting firm, he found 13 mutilated corpses dumped in the jungle.
He reported the shocking discovery but, incredibly, was himself blamed for the massacre and held in a grim prison in the capital Bangui.
After a chaotic investigation, David was released six months later and returned to his home in North Yorkshire.
But, amazingly, he decided to go back to the Central African Republic. And despite being robbed and even shot at by lawless rebels he resolved to do his bit to help animals in the strife-torn region.
David explained: “I was in prison for six months and I had a lot of time on my hands. That’s when I came up with the idea to create a wildlife reserve to protect the republic’s animals, many of which are close to extinction.”
The result is The Chinko Project, which David set up with partners Erik Mararv, Thierry Aebischer and Raffael Hickisch.
They have set up a game reserve in a 27,000 square mile wilderness near the Sudan border. The area, which boasts woodland savannah and tropical rainforest, is home to dozens of endangered species. But, in May, poachers shot at David and his patrols on the reserve.
David admits he’s prepared for trouble. “We are going up against poachers on a daily basis,” he said. “And they will shoot to get what they want. We may end up having to tackle them head on.”
Yet, despite the threat of armed poachers and gun-toting rebels, the Chinko team believe a combination of regular patrols and education can preserve the area.
“The country is in the worst situation it has ever been in,” David explained. “But if I can do this, we can save some species, like the rhino, that without help will be extinct in six years.”
David will meet the Republic’s president Michael Djotodia next week to talk about his plans to aid the wildlife and the people of the troubled state.
“I know it is crazy and very dangerous going back,” admits David. “You never know what you’ll encounter in the towns there gun-wielding mobs rampage through the street during the day and, at night, looting is widespread. My mum is worried sick. But it’s something I have to do.”
For more on The Chinko Project visit chinkoproject.com