We thought we would take a closer look at the National Park Ranger in Africa. We talk a lot about rangers when discussing poaching and the battle to protect wildlife in Africa but we haven’t really gone into detail about who rangers are and what they do. It varies between country to country and government policy but generally their roles are pretty similar. A park ranger is someone whose job is to protect and preserve the park or land entrusted to them. They are employed in protecting and conserving the wildlife and their habitat in all the major national parks in Africa.
The duties of the park ranger are very varied depending on which country or park they work for. Most are employed by the government but sometimes they are employed by charities or by separate authorities in charge of the parks. They have become more and more specialised over the past few decades and they are a vital force in the national park scheme. The parks wildlife and habitats futures are really in their hands.
Sometimes they act as guides and experts and their predominant role is educational and to provide information. In most places in Africa though the park rangers are also very much law enforcers in charge of keeping park regulations enforced and encouraging visitors to stick to the guidelines. They check permits and visitor numbers etc. in order to protect the park from being overwhelmed and to make sure that visitors respect the wildlife and the habitat.
However recently the rangers have also become more important in the battle against poaching and they have become more like a police force with powers to arrest and disarm poachers. This is the case in Uganda and Rwanda where they are trying to protect the endangered mountain gorilla, in Kenya and Tanzania where they are protecting rhino and elephant from poaching and big cats from illegal hunters and in Southern Africa they are also at the forefront of the battle against poaching and illegal hunting.
SANParks the authority in charge of the national parks of South Africa has recently inaugurated 49 of the 150 new field rangers during its International Ranger Day celebrations last week. The South African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, has invested a huge amount in training a large number of new recruits in order to fight the poaching problem in areas such as the Kruger National Park.
The new recruits will adopt a multi-disciplinary approach and will draw skills and expertise from various law enforcement agencies currently deployed. SANParks, Chief Executive Officer, Dr David Mabunda said the new recruits were coming at a critical time when the South African conservation agencies as well as private individuals were paying a high price with the senseless killings of the country’s rhino population.
These new park rangers have the lives of millions of animals as their responsibility as well as the safety and wellbeing of the visitors to the park. It’s a major task and we all owe a lot to these rangers. The future of these magnificent animals may well be in their hands.