Every year on the 31 July we should honour wildlife rangers across the globe and raise awareness about the work they do to help protect the natural world
World Ranger Day, celebrated every 31 July, was set up to commemorate the many rangers killed or injured while carrying out their everyday work to protect the world’s natural and cultural treasures. The day is promoted by the 54 member associations of the International Ranger Federation (IRF) and their partner organisation, the Thin Green Line Foundation. This year, the World Land Trust (WLT) is celebrating World Ranger Day through their Keepers of the Wild appeal. Launched in January 2011, the appeal is addressing the urgent need to provide more resources and rangers to help support our conservation partner organisations across the world. Through your generous support for WLT’s Keepers of the Wild appeal we have already been able to fund nine rangers in the field, covering their salary for one year, to help protect wildlife reserves that have been created with WLT’s help. We have, so far, funded new wildlife rangers in Borneo, Venezuela, Paraguay, Armenia, Guatemala, Mexico, and three in Ecuador. As well as covering their salaries we are also providing much needed resources ranging from uniforms and walking boots, to digital cameras and binoculars. Many of our other project partners urgently need additional rangers for their reserves. We need to continue funding into the future.
Meet the rangers
To better understand the needs of our rangers across the world, we recently sent out a questionnaire to all of those funded by Keepers of the Wild appeal – the response was both eye-opening and inspirational. The rangers have an array of different roles they must carry-out and problems they have to deal with. Here are some examples:
Local community support
Working with local communities is a key part of the rangers’ job. Ensuring that local people are actively involved in the conservation work and understand the importance of protecting their natural environment is fundamental to securing the long-term success of any project. Many of the conservation projects are also focused on providing local people with alternative employment opportunities. Meet ranger Ricardo Caal, who works for our partner organisation FUNDAECO (Fundación Para El Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación) in Guatemala. Ricardo has vast experience in working with local communities; he has undertaken several training programmes to help promote local development, from training as a rural health promoter to teaching reading and writing. This is of great benefit to FUNDAECO as they continue to strengthen their relationship with local people and fund community-led conservation projects.
One of our Keepers of the Wild rangers works on a WLT Carbon Balanced reserve, helping with natural regeneration and forest protection to deliver carbon offsets. This reserve is funded through WLT’s Carbon Balanced programme, which encourages individuals and small-medium size businesses to calculate and offset their unavoidable carbon emissions. WLT offsets these emissions by protecting forests under imminent threat of deforestation. Meet our ranger, Galo Vélez, from north-west Ecuador; he has recently been measuring the diameter and height of the trees in different areas of the Río Canandé Reserve and has fed this information back to WLT’s Ecosystem Services team so they can do their carbon calculations for this project site. Galo is a strong believer in WLT’s Carbon Balanced programme and is enthusiastic about engaging local communities. He said:
“There should be more opportunities given for local people to contribute to conservation, for example through reforestation campaigns.”
The vast majority of our rangers once hunted the wildlife that they are now dedicated to protecting. In many of the countries where WLT works, hunting is a vital way of earning a living and providing food for the family. This is why giving local people a secure alternative income is essential and our rangers have all become true defenders of the wild. Meet our ranger from Mexico, Abel Reséndiz, who used to be migrant worker in the USA and a hunter. He said:
“I feel proud of my work because we are protecting special places that were being destroyed or were under pressure from logging, ranching, frequent wildfires, and hunters. Instead of making a living from damaging forests, I’m in charge of protecting them. I now know it is better to protect the animals and forests; I´m convinced they are in trouble and they need all our help.”
Although all our Keepers of the Wild rangers are unarmed, they often come into contact with armed hunters. A recent incident on a WLT-funded reserve on Venezuela’s Margarita Island, when five armed men broke into the protected area where the rangers were guarding Yellow-Shouldered parrot chicks, is a terrifying demonstration of the threats that our rangers can occasionally face. Meet our ranger from Margarita Island, Pablo Millán, who although not funded specifically through Keepers of the Wild was keen to tell his story. He said:
“The hardest part of my work is dealing with poachers and hunters; I often have to talk them into leaving the reserve, sometimes they bring weapons and we don’t know what they are capable of. I am convinced my job is very important; I visit many places on Margarita Island and I don’t see the same diversity of plants and animals that I see in the reserve, this is because we prevent people from damaging wildlife in the area. We don’t do this for ourselves – we do this for the plants and animals, so they survive and don’t become extinct.”
Some of the most inspiring responses from the questionnaire were rangers explaining why they were dedicated to protecting their environment and the passion they have for the wildlife that surrounds them. Meet Berjaya Elahan who works for our partner organisation HUTAN to protect some of the most iconic species in Borneo, from the Orang-utan to the Pygmy Elephant.
“Being a reserve ranger has changed my life,” he said. “I have learnt to better appreciate the Earth’s environment and wildlife. As a ranger I am now able to share my passion for conservation, especially in protecting wildlife and nature. I hope that the HUTAN model can be used for protecting either place from poachers and illegal logging, as our forest and wildlife is getting less and less over time. It is important to leave a legacy for the children; future generations should inherit the richness of wildlife and wonders of nature that we are lucky to see today.”
More information about Keepers of the Wild
All of our rangers funded by the Keepers of the Wild appeal post regular up-dates on our website about their experiences protecting threatened wildlife and habitats. More responses to the questionnaire will be posted on the website soon; here you will discover everything from which animal the rangers’ would most like to see, to the most unusual species behaviour ever witnessed.
Help celebrate World Ranger Day by donating to the Keepers of the Wild appeal and put more rangers in the field to safeguard the natural world. Or perhaps you or your company could sponsor your own ranger for £5000.