As over 300 of the bravest men and women on the planet gather this week at the World Ranger Congress in Colorado, USA, we take this opportunity to acknowledge the amazing work these men and women do – across Asia, Africa and beyond.
Rangers are crucial to the protection of wildlife, forests and the natural world. Around the globe, there is a booming illegal wildlife trade that threatens the future of our natural places. It is a black market estimated to be worth $19 billion per year, run by highly organised criminal networks who are using ever-more sophisticated techniques.
Rangers are the first line of defence in the battle against the illegal wildlife trade. They stand between poachers and the forest every day. Without rangers, iconic species such as tigers, rhinos and elephants would have long since vanished from the wild.
Yet little has been done to systematically study and report on ranger working conditions, nor better understand how rangers feel about their work – their concerns, challenges, rewards and motivations. WWF is currently conducting a series of ranger surveys with the aim of influencing and improving government policy. The first of these, the Ranger Perceptions: Asia survey, has found that 63% of rangers have faced a life threatening situation.
Patrolling is a key part of ranger work. They are outdoors all day, every day to combat poaching and monitor wildlife. The conditions can be brutal, from blistering cold in the mountains of the Russian Far East and China to sweltering heat in India. The monsoon season that sweeps across much of Asia also adds another dimension of challenges; from torrents of muddy water to copious amounts of leeches and mosquitoes. It can be extremely difficult for rangers to cross high rivers and streams, especially with large rucksacks and transport vehicles such as motorbikes.
Many of these brave men and women not only work in dangerous and harsh conditions, they often do so with low pay, little or no support and inadequate equipment. A lot of rangers spend weeks, sometimes months away from their loved ones and some will not have access to electricity or clean drinking water whilst on patrol.
“It’s a dangerous job and bravery is not enough... many of Asia’s rangers are poorly trained and ill equipped. These people must have the necessary tools and training to do their job safely and successfully.”Rohit Singh, President of the Ranger Federation of Asia (RFA)
And it’s not just Asia, Ranger Perceptions: Africa surveyed 570 rangers across 12 African countries and found that 82 per cent had faced a life–threatening situation while on duty, 59 per cent felt they were insufficiently equipped and 42 per cent felt they lacked sufficient training to do their jobs safely and effectively.
Rangers are protecting our most precious natural resources and our planet’s future. It is time we gave them the support they need.
Support our #wildlifeheroes!
The World Ranger Congress is on 21st – 27th May 2016, Colorado USA: http://www.worldrangercongressusa.com/