Inspired by his South African roots, Northamptonshire’s Ricardo Vasconcelos has recently been spending his time away from the cricket pitch raising funds for – and awareness of – anti-poaching efforts in his homeland and Africa beyond.
Vasconcelos’ work has spanned from Northampton to South Africa, with his fundraising efforts in the UK being supplemented by a winter spent in the southern hemisphere.
“I’m looking to try and set up an anti-rhino poaching trust,” Vasconcelos explains.
“I grew up in South Africa and have travelled through Africa throughout my life and, as a result, have fallen in love with the whole environment.
“It’s something that I’m passionate about so I’m trying to give back in that sense. I’m just trying to give back in any way I can on that particular issue.”
Expanding on his reasons for pursuing an interest outside of cricket, Vasconcelos emphasises the importance of forward planning in a career that comes to an end at an average age of 26.
The batsman, who is still starting out in his professional career at the young age of 22, recently attended the PCA’s 2019 Futures Conference.
The two-day event aims to equip PCA members such as Vasconcelos with the tools they need to succeed outside of professional cricket via a series of workshops and seminars. It forms the centrepiece of the Association’s annual Futures Week initiative.
“I don’t think you can start planning too soon, really.
“The more planning you do, the easier it’s going to be when that time does come. That’s why I attended the Futures Conference. I’m still only in my second year but hopefully I’ll start putting plans in place for when that does happen.”
Since the Futures Conference, Vasconcelos has indeed spent the off-season putting his time to good use back in South Africa. Alongside training and doing rehab for his injured ankle, he has spent time monitoring the movements and wellbeing of rhinos and other animals in the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve.
“I’ve been going out to track the rhinos to check if they’re ok and that they’re still alive.
“I’ve also spent time with the guys who do all the intelligence side of things, finding the poachers and arresting those who have been involved with illegal activities.
“I loved every minute of the experience. It was hard work, getting up at 4am every morning to go out and try to find them, and you don’t always end up running into the rhino that you’re looking for – you can run into elephants, lions or anything else.
“But I grew up going to the bush and on safari throughout my childhood so it’s something that I’ve grown up loving. It’s just nice to still be able to get involved with it.”
With one eye on the future, Vasconcelos has invested considerable time and effort on setting up a website for himself in order to raise his public profile and fundraise further for the anti-poaching effort in South Africa.
“At the moment I’m just trying to fundraise to help pay for things like the collars which track the rhinos and the security for everyone involved.
“I’ve already got a lot of things set up like my bat sponsor who is contributing. Northants are also planning on helping out a bit, so for now I’m just focussing on getting myself set up and I’m going to see where I can go from there.”