Beast of man
What an unbelievable listen. Enlightening, inspiring, frightening and unnerving all at the same time.” – review by one listener of Beast of Man
In 2019, one of the rarest sounds ever heard on a podcast was broadcast to the globe. The sound of a black rhino breathing. Across 10 powerful episodes, BBC Radio 5 Live unveiled a harrowing thriller that saw presenter Sarah Brett join Kevin Pietersen on a week-long trip to his home in South Africa’s Kruger National Park to explore the dangerous world of rhino horn poaching. Witnessing the horror and heart-breaking pointlessness of victimised animals in the flesh, Brett shadows Kevin closely throughout the series to learn from the cricketer-turned-conservationist and others who work so hard in protecting the rhino as well as, chillingly, the very poachers that kill them.
“The rhino. An icon – almost extinct. Kevin Pietersen. A maverick cricketer who never backs down. It’s raw. It’s war. He says he’ll save them. But poachers are never far away, and time is running out.”
As full of the drama and suspense as the podcast’s trailers suggest, it is an eye-opening documentary that has so far reached millions and shocked listeners to their core. Commissioned by Kevin to shine a light on the plight of the rhino in South Africa and the continent, it has proved an educational success earning 5-star reviews and excellent critical acclaim.
This fascinating piece of informative content follows Brett’s journey and allows audiences to step with her into the dark side of Kruger. Her commentary is punchy and yet maternal at times. She describes baby rhinos as “little black puddings bounding about like lambs” with satellite ears and dusted hinds. Their mothers’ savage deaths leave them fragile, needing urgent love in order to survive. Despite their tough appearance, Brett finds out that rhinos are “unbelievably soft”, their ears are silken, skin bouncy and horn unexpectedly spongey. They are sweet in temperament – shy but inquisitive, drawn towards noise and strangers out of innocent curiosity. The fact that these special animals are being brutally murdered every day is agonizingly sad. Brett breaks down in tears more than once.
By episode four, the audience learns about the gangster syndicate running the rhino-killing, and the youngsters who are controlled by them. The loaded question as to whether poaching is driven by need or greed is raised again and again. Through interviews, background chatter and the sounds of drama in the park, the dire situation is communicated so vividly, as one critic describes, “it almost takes a physical toll”. It’s often a gruelling listen, but, without doubt, a really important one.
Telling the story of conservationists, rangers, both heroic and corrupt, guides and the ever-twisting arm of organised crime, KP’s hard-hitting broadcast is a grave message to the world. It may already be too late to save the rhino from extinction. But like him and his dedicated family of protectors, it is imperative that we try.
Listen on BBC Sounds, Apple, Spotify and all the top audio platforms.