African Rangers: Giving Life for Life

They say that if you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.  For many people around the world, the idea of living close to nature and working with animals seems to promise just that.

Africa is said to offer the most “glamorous” opportunities for those with dreams of becoming a ranger.  Yet those who pursue a career in this field will be the first to tell you that as much as they love it, it is seriously hard work.

Perhaps this is where the ‘love’ aspect comes into the analogy.  Certainly, it helps that on any given day you might bear witness to the tenderness of a mother elephant, or the power of lions on the hunt.  But what about the setbacks, the challenges, the failures?  Without a doubt, it takes a special kind of person to be an African ranger, and they deserve recognition.

Few jobs demand such dedication, hardship, deprivation, and at times, risk.  And yet, for every post advertised, you will find many willing to be a voice for the voiceless.

An Evolving Life

In its simplest form, being an African ranger entails a multitude of tasks geared to preserving intact ecosystems.  Most rangers agree that the healthiest ecosystems are those left untouched by human activity.  However, due to human development over the last 150 years, it became necessary to intervene to preserve the land and its wild inhabitants.

Enter game rangers.  Worldwide, the definition of and qualifications needed to become a game ranger vary hugely.  In developed nations, rangers are typically university educated; working on research and land management.  In countries, like Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia, the majority have nominal training geared towards law enforcement, with their primary motivation being employment, yet their dedication is unwavering.

Worldwide, rangers are notoriously underpaid when one considers the numerous sacrifices they make protecting our natural resources.  Additionally, few countries allocate sufficient finances to help conservationists stay abreast of their many challenges, much less address them all.

The impact of poaching and illegal logging on African conservation efforts is twofold; firstly, African rangers have to focus more on law enforcement at the expense of research and management.  Secondly, when lives are lost, so too are the skills, experience and passion of the fallen rangers.  To learn more about the challenges and efforts to address them, you can read more here.

A Life Transformed

If you’re reading this, you will most likely already be aware of rangers – both in terms of the invaluable service they provide within Africa’s Eden and the challenges they face.  And, you will probably be wondering if there is anything you can do to support them.

The simplest, and most pleasant, way to do this is to visit their places of work.  By doing so, the money you spend improves the finances of the particular national park, thus improving working conditions.  And while you’re there, should you come across African rangers on patrol, engage with them to learn more about their work.  All the better if you have some refreshments to pass around. It’s thirsty work!

Properties such as Imvelo Lodges are working hand-in-hand with their local scouts and African rangers for the betterment of all stakeholders involved. Still others, such as Zambian Horseback Safaris, blossomed from the need to give local communities in Simalaha a financial incentive to protect their wildlife. If you can’t visit, there are numerous NGOs worldwide which aim to improve park management and finances.  Perhaps the most efficient way to reach out to rangers is by offering to volunteer for, or contribute to the International Ranger Federation (IRF).

The IRF was initially formed in the UK in 1992, to enable rangers worldwide to share information and technological advances, particularly from developed to developing nations and has the support of 65 ranger associations worldwide.

World Ranger Day is celebrated globally on the 31st of July.  Its purpose is to honour those rangers that have been injured or lost their lives in the course of their duties, and to celebrate these amazing women and men who sacrifice so much, not only for the fauna and flora in the areas they protect but for you and me too.