Wildlife rangers- guardians of the wild, protectors of the natural world and perhaps the closest thing to superheroes we have in conservation. July 31st marks ‘World Rangers Day’. This is an annually celebrated event in honour of rangers and the great contributions they make towards conserving, protecting and educating about wildlife, sometimes getting injured or losing their lives in the process. This Rangers Day, we honour the great role they play worldwide by putting a spotlight on what it means to be a ranger and some of the responsibilities behind the title.
1. Rangers Act as Security Personnel
Based in some of the most extreme and hostile environments, rangers are the eyes on the ground. They actively contribute to efforts against wildlife crimes such as poaching, illegal fishing, waste dumping and even unlicensed logging. Regular foot patrols around protected areas provide a noticeable presence of qualified rangers in the parks and conservancies, and position units to react to and counter illegal activity in a timely way. Often, just the knowledge that they are on the ground patrolling the park serves as a major deterrent to poaching for instance.
Providing security also extends to local communities. Rangers often help in the construction of wildlife-proof fencing to reduce cases of human-wildlife conflict. This goes a long way towards preserving both animal and human lives which are needlessly lost during clashes. Additionally, rangers also act as first response teams during natural crises like forest fires, assisting in holding them back and/or putting them out.
2. Rangers Educate
Regular experience on the ground makes these individuals an incredibly rich source of information. They provide first hand, immersive knowledge to guests visiting parks and conservancies and even guide junior ranger workshops for visitors with young ones interested in wildlife. Local communities are also among those that they help educate, particularly in matters regarding human-wildlife co-existence and the importance of conservation. In the long run, it is through this communal education and eventual support that conservation hopes and dreams are turned into reality.
3. They Regularly Collect Information for Research
A great chunk of conservation work lies in research. Rangers spend a good amount of time outdoors monitoring the land, animal migration patterns, herd behaviour and even collecting scat using highly trained K9 Units. The collection of scat for instance, is one of the non-invasive ways data on various animal species is collected. Samples contain hormones and DNA which allow organisations to study stress, reproductive status and genetic relationships between animals. This DNA also helps in addressing the source of animals that are being illegally trafficked so law enforcement can address areas where animals are being taken from the wild.
Large-scale processes like ear notching are also activities they participate in to give individual animals such as rhinos a unique identification feature to enhance monitoring and provide accurate population estimates.
4. They Rescue and Rehabilitate Injured or Sick Animals
There are several causes for wildlife injury and sickness in parks. While not all of these can be addressed, rangers try their best to help sick, injured and orphaned animals when found. Snares left behind by poachers are a fairly common threat, trapping anything that walks into them leading to deep wounds that can cause death through excessive bleeding and infection. The process of rescuing such animals involves a fairly risky process of sedating and treating the wounds in good time and releasing the animal.
5. Rangers Contribute to the Management of Parks & Conservancies
In addition to the roles they play out in the wild, rangers in different capacities also contribute to the day to day running of conservancies and parks. This involves the co-ordination and management of assets, finances and Human Resources as well as collection of park fees and ensuring that park rules and regulations are followed.
6. They Provide an Important Link to Local Communities
While rangers come from far and wide, most teams within various parks and conservancies are made up of people selected from local communities. Having lived and grown up in the area, they are deeply familiar with the land as well as the day to day needs and challenges of the local people, creating better avenues for conservation between organisations and communities. Their connection to these communities also allows the rangers to have a greater awareness of weekly going ons and possible threats within the parks and conservancies.
With that, we’d like to commend the efforts of rangers across the continent and worldwide as well as the individuals and organisations contributing to their line of work. If you’re interested in reading more about rangers and conservation as well as how to help find our other articles here.