Meet the wild rangers who risk their lives every day to protect tigers and other wildlife.
Meet Chanrantana Pin, better known as Vong. Vong and his team of four men work in Mondulkiri Protected Forest & Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia.
When did you become a ranger?
“I graduated top in my class at high school and won a scholarship to attend Phnom Penh University where I studied veterinary medicine. I became involved with the WWF as an assistant dog handler and soon became interested in becoming a research ranger. I started working as a research ranger at 22 years old here in the Mondulkiri Protected Forest & Phnom Penh Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia.”
Why are rangers important in this area?
“Rangers are important everywhere in the world. They do hard work to monitor wildlife and reduce wildlife crimes – If there were no rangers – all wildlife would be gone immediately.”
What animals and species do you protect in the forest?
“Here in Mondulkiri Protected Forest & Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary, we protect many animals, but mainly we work to protect tigers. But before you can protect tigers, first you need to protect tiger prey – such as banteng, gaur, and sambar. We also work to protect the Asian elephant – here we have a lot of Asian elephant. Increasingly we are also working towards protecting water birds too.”
What is the best thing about being a ranger?
“Putting camera traps out and seeing the tigers. People, like poachers, want to steal these camera traps, so seeing the camera is still there makes us very happy.”
What is the worst thing about being a ranger?
“Seeing loggers cutting trees and animals that have been killed. Also in the rainy season it is very difficult, many rivers are flooded, 2-3m high the water so we have to swim across and carry our equipment and our motorbike, which are too heavy to carry. We need more people to work like this.”
Have you ever encountered poachers on patrol?
“Yeah, something like 60 – 70% of the time we encounter poachers and loggers and every time we encounter (them) we call for support from other rangers to come and arrest them – we have to carry on with our own patrolling duties so we call the other rangers to come and take care of the illegal activity.”
Have you ever faced danger on patrol?
“Yes of course! We encounter it with the poachers or loggers – sometimes they can be very aggressive – we try to stop them but sometimes they have powerful people with them to back them up – they are not afraid of the rangers. We try our best to stop them. Working in the forest you never know what is going to happen. Also I have seen snakes, cobras several times and almost stepped on them.”
"We were walking with the dogs to find a tiger scat. One dog went really close to a cobra. Luckily we saw and called her back."
What can make your job easier?
“We need strong support from a management team and from the local communities. Without their support our work will be failed. We also need more rangers, for example for my team 2-4 people protected an area over 2000km2 so it is difficult to cover. We need people, equipment and also strong support from the government – this is the major thing – without their support we will also fail.”
Since giving this interview, Vong has moved to Thailand to complete an MSc in Natural Resource Management, funded by the WWF. The rest of Vong’s team are still working out in the field, putting their lives at risk every day.
Although he no longer works as a ranger for WWF he plans to return to Mondulkiri to continue his work in species and habitat protection in his home region once done with his MSc.