Rangers - Unsung Heroes Of Wildlife Conservation
“There are many angles from which we can look at the important work of rangers and eco-guards,” says Johannes Refisch, the UN Environment Programme’s coordinator of the Great Apes Survival Partnership. “Mountain gorillas are a fantastic example: not a single mountain gorilla was killed in the last 10 years.”
In November 2018, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature declared the mountain gorilla no longer "critically endangered". It has been reclassified as "endangered" due to conservation efforts.
“However, we should not forget the important work of rangers in ‘conflict parks’ in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—Garama, Virunga, Maiko and Kahuzi-Biega,” says Refisch. “The Virunga park alone has lost 200 rangers in 20 years.”
World Ranger Day, an initiative of the International Ranger Federation, is marked on 31 July to celebrate the work rangers do to protect the planet’s natural treasures, and commemorate those killed in the line of duty.
Rangers are also contributing to environmental peacebuilding,” says Refisch. “There are a number of examples in Africa where community-based natural resource management combined with effective protection by eco-guards has reduced human-wildlife conflict. The work of the Northern Rangeland Trust in Kenya is a very good example.”
Communities are on the front line in wildlife conservation and they need to take their rightful place in the wildlife economy. This point was stressed at the recent African Wildlife Economy Summit in Zimbabwe.
“The illegal trade in wildlife benefits very few yet hurts so many,” says UN Environment wildlife chief Doreen Robinson.
The evidence is clear: when communities and rangers work together, with the support of governments and international organizations, we can protect wildlife and ensure that those who bear the costs of living with wildlife are able to reap the greatest benefits.”
In some places, rangers are getting better equipment. Modern technology allows them to spot poaching activities at night and/or relay suspicious activity to a control room in real time, so that swift counter-measures can be taken.
Meanwhile, African governments are stepping up their anti-poaching activities and have chalked up several wildlife conservation successes recently.
For example, the Kenyan government is setting aside 300 hectares for the conservation of the critically endangered mountain bongo. Kenya Wildlife Service and partners will make provisions for the creation of intensive protection zones staffed by a permanent security force engaged in daily patrols, anti-poaching and de-snaring activities. To manage human activity around bongo habitats, Kenya Wildlife Service, the Kenya Forest Service and their partners will work with community forest associations and host communities to curb illegal activities and enhance sustainable practices, says the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy.
In Tanzania, elephant and rhino populations increased after a crackdown on poaching. In Uganda, a new wildlife act prescribes hefty fines and significant prison terms for illegal activities, while also strengthening community roles in supporting and benefiting from wildlife management.