South African wildlife rangers join Africa-wide drive to protect wildlife

Posted on 29 July 2021

South African wildlife rangers will soon be joining their counterparts from across Africa in a global drive to unite rangers, influencers, and celebrities to raise funds lost through the COVID-19 pandemic that has sparked a rise in poaching and loss of animals across the continent.  

An anti-poaching ranger (who may not be identified) based at Skukuza’s K9 Unit, with his German shepherds – one is trained to sniff out concealed rhino horn and ivory, the other to detect firearms and ammunition.

Local rangers will join 150 teams from other 20 African countries in a series of events that will begin with the launch of World Ranger Day on 31 July. From Ranger Day, the South Africans will then take part in a series of mental and physical challenges that will culminate with the running of a half-marathon (21 km) race, the finale of the events on 18 September. 

The global fundraising effort is a response to a continent-wide wildlife crisis that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic reducing tourism volumes by about 70% and virtually eliminating the flow of essential funding from tourism into anti-poaching activities across the continent. 

The current pressures on Africa’s protected areas threaten to compromise decades of development and conservation success. Africa’s rangers are stretched to capacity and continue to see drastic cuts in resources and an increase in subsistence poaching due to the devastating economic impact of Covid-19. A new survey, conducted by Tusk and NATURAL STATE with 60 field conservation organisations across 19 African countries, found that Wildlife Rangers see no relief in sight, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact Africa’s communities and wildlife. Ultimately, this reduction in capacity to fight poaching could result in an increased threat to wildlife as international borders reopen, opening the possibility for cross-border poaching incursions and illicit trade.

The campaign, the second to take place, will use the power of ranger voices, influencers, and celebrities to mobilise public support for Africa’s rangers by donating to the Ranger Fund or by taking part in the Wildlife Ranger Challenge events, wherever they may be in the world.  

The 21-km run, part of a coordinated effort that will see the event being run simultaneously in all 20 participating countries on the same day, will see various South African conservation organisations taking parts such as the Southern African Wildlife College, Project Rhino, Transfrontier Africa, Wildlands Conservation Trust and the Wildlife ACT Fund Trust.  

WRC aims at raising about $ 5,000,000 by the time the Half Marathon (21 km) race, the highlight of the Challenge takes place across the varied and challenging terrain of Africa’s Protected Areas in September. It is being organised by The Tusk Lion Trail and Natural State in conjunction with the leading ranger associations.  

Tusk’s mission is to amplify the impact of progressive conservation initiatives across Africa. The charity has earned a reputation for providing a highly efficient solution for funding wildlife conservation programmes. Natural State carries out large-scale restoration projects, promotes biodiversity, and supports measurable gains towards Sustainable Development Goals. Other partners in the WRC initiative include Scheinberg Relief Fund, Game Rangers Association of Africa, and the International Ranger Federation. 

Sergeant Nyaradzo Hoto of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation says,COVID-19 has presented unique challenges to our programmes The pandemic has significantly impacted and continues to impact, our anti-poaching operations. There has been an alarming spike in the rate of ivory-related arrests made by our team over the last year. The poachers will not rest despite the pandemic, so it is up to us to maintain operations. This is proving a challenge, but one we’re resolving well as a team. We stand strong in our commitment to patrol the vast wilderness areas we are entrusted with and protect those that can’t fend for themselves against poachers.’

The first Wildlife Ranger Challenge launched in 2020, raised US $10m which was used to support more than 9 000 rangers working to protect over 4 000 000 km2 of conservation areas across Africa by providing salaries, equipment, and helping to meet operating costs. 

Picture: Getaway gallery 

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