EVERY RANGER COUNTS
As the life support of conservation efforts across the world, wildlife rangers keep some of the planet’s most vulnerable and endangered species alive through tireless dedication and hard work against often-terrifying odds.
The illegal wildlife trade has become the world’s fourth-most profitable criminal trafficking enterprise, generating revenues of up to $17bn a year. The demand for wildlife products for luxury or ornamental trinkets, or for bogus medical “cures,” is the primary threat to the survival of some of the world’s most iconic species, including tigers, rhinos, elephants, pangolins and many more.
The role of a wildlife ranger is vital if we are to win this war.
“Rangers are the eyes, ears and heart of the bush and are often the only hope that stands between species survival and the sixth mass extinction. Without rangers, there is no hope for critically endangered species or in the ongoing and brutal fight against wildlife crime,” shares Georgina.
Meet Mr. Mulimo, a key leader who works in a special anti-poaching unit in Africa, and Georgina Lamb, Head of Programs and Policy at David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF), a wildlife conservation charity who funds special anti-poaching units and is fighting wildlife crime on multiple fronts – and continents.
Acknowledging the scale, professionalism and growth of organized crime and the devastating impacts it wreaks on the environment, DSWF has long adopted a team approach, encouraging and funding greater collaborative efforts between multifaceted law enforcement agencies. Operating across Africa and Asia, the organization has invested in conservation projects from the mountains of Mongolia, to the forests of Russia and Thailand and across the wild plains of Africa.
“Rangers are brave men and women who put their lives at risk every day, operating at the front line of wildlife conflict, stopping the brutal and devastating impacts of environmental crime,” shares Georgina.
Rangers defend wildlife and the communities that live and surround protected areas and habitats by deploying a range of highly varied skills and activities, from anti-poaching patrols and undercover sting operations, to locating and removing snares, the silent killer of the bush. In addition to collecting vital research material and monitoring wildlife populations, they respond to human-wildlife conflicts to mitigate often-dangerous situations for both human and animal.
The fight is hard and often unfair. Operating in some the world’s most hostile landscapes, wildlife rangers are often under-supported by deprived wildlife departments and have little in the way of counter strategies. These become tough disadvantages as they come face-to-face with the extremely well-funded and organized criminal syndicates that fuel wildlife crime. Too often in the news we hear of one-sided sophisticated gun fights and helicopter raids in which poachers and trafficking gangs take on brave wildlife rangers with limited resources who sometimes have only ever fired six bullets in training.
“On the black market, rhino horn is often worth more than cocaine and gold. That means for every 200 elephants brutally slaughtered, one ranger will lose his or her life in the fight to protect them,” explains Georgina.
Despite the dangers, brave men and women continue to sign up to protect what they love and respect. Rangers don’t want to see wild animals captured and put into cages in zoos in wholly unsuitable climates as the only means of their future survival; instead they fight for the belief that one day we will be able to live in harmony with wildlife and not see it as a commodity to be sold and traded to the highest bidder.
DSWF needs help to ensure that the species we all love and the humans protecting them are better supported. Ground-based conservation projects require significant effort, funds and co-ordination to have a positive impact employing many people with diverse jobs and skillsets.
“Ever since my childhood, I have always worked with natural resources. The way I look at things, if the animals are not protected, they’ll be finished. The way it is now, one scout on the ground combating poaching covers about 120km2. The area is just too vast for one person. We need to employ more scouts, reduce the area coverage per scout and then we stand a chance. These animals are vital. They should be given a chance to live,” states Neddy Mulimo.
To donate or learn more about the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and its Wildlife Rangers appeal, please visit https://davidshepherd.org/every-ranger-counts