Article by Kotie Geldenhuys
While many people may associate rangers with serene landscapes and wildlife observation, the reality is that their job can be extremely dangerous. Being a ranger is a highly challenging job that requires a lot of dedication, courage and love for nature and wildlife. Rangers play a critical role in protecting wild animals and the habitats in which they roam from various threats, including poaching, illegal logging and other forms of exploitation. In doing so, they often put their own lives at great risk.
Over the years the role of rangers in conservation areas has undergone significant changes due to the increased threat posed by poachers. In the past, rangers primarily focused on wildlife conservation, patrolling the park or reserve to look for snares and other potential dangers to animals and plants. Being armed with a rifle and binoculars, they were deemed sufficient to address the challenges they faced. However, in recent years, the situation has become far more dangerous and complex. As poaching escalated, poachers have become highly organised, heavily armed and trained in military tactics. They often work in teams and are equipped with sophisticated weapons, making them a formidable threat to both wildlife and rangers. These days rangers require the skills of a battle-honed soldier.
Rangers are dedicated individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the natural heritage of conservation areas – their safety and well-being are paramount in the ongoing efforts to combat wildlife crime. According to a 2016 survey by the World Wild Fund (WWF), 82% rangers in Africa and 63% rangers in Asia claimed that they had faced a life-threatening situation in the line of duty (Tan, 2018). These life-threatening situations range from interaction with wild animals and dealing with natural disasters such as fires, to encountering poachers and militia in conflict areas (RE Wild, 2022)
[This is only an extract of an article that is published in Servamus: September 2023. This article is available for purchase.]