A Few Good Men: Celebrating our Wildlife Defenders

By Rosalind Johnson, Care for the Wild Projects and Development Assistant

Right now there are people who care for wildlife and our environmental balance so much that they risk their lives to protect it. World Ranger Day celebrates, quite rightly, the front line defence against poaching of elephant, rhino, tiger and countless other species.

Celebrating Asia’s Tiger Heroes

In Thailand we support camera trap research in the second most important tiger range in the country. We work with Freeland to also ensure that government rangers and forest officials across this vital ecosystem and Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are trained in the latest in monitoring and enforcement systems.

We can never underestimate the risks this work incurs. We were shocked and saddened to hear that two of the Freeland team rangers were shot and injured this year, with one fatality. It is a sobering reality that every four days a wildlife protection ranger worldwide is killed in the line of duty. We have just recently offered continued and further support to the team and their work, continuing tiger monitoring and also building on capacity building training and workshops including hazardous area training for field staff.

Just this month our team in southern India have started the new season of anti-snare walks. In the first two weeks 60 snares were lifted showing the great challenge to make forests snare free for wildlife. The Wildlife Trust of India team supports government enforcement, with undercover operations that lead to arrest of poaching gangs, seizure of equipment and legal assistance to prosecution. The work is risky, going right into the heart of the illegal wildlife trade – every month we receive a new report of tiger, leopard, or deer parts confiscated and behind each of these is a specialist ranger, risking his life to take these parts and the people responsible out of circulation. To protect our rangers’ identity we cannot always celebrate these heroes and their successes individually, reporting instead their efforts in statistics – but behind each snare and each skin was a risk taken by a ranger.

Africa’s Front Line

The armament of Tsavo poachers as you will know is escalating. Earlier this year a whole family of elephants were brutally gunned down with machine guns – and our teams are up against this potential threat every time they go out. However, the threat to wildlife is not always so obvious, and our rangers take a holistic and wide ranging approach to tackle the root causes of animal loss. In the Mara an elephant breeding ground is under less pressure from poaching gangs but rather illegal logging which threatens this habitat. The team here have made an incredible 23 arrests since the beginning of the year, indicating the vast scale of the problem.

In Tsavo we are looking toward the future, with a new Wildlife Ambassador’s Education Programme which will be launched in two schools this autumn. When resources and opportunities are limited and your only interaction with wildlife is crop raiding or livestock being taken by predators, it’s not hard to see why many turn to poaching, retaliatory killing and bushmeat. Through giving children access to see their own natural heritage, tooling schools for increased educational attainment and engaging the next generation in the debate our rangers are building tomorrow’s guardians of wildlife.

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