Rangers, forest guards, and wildlife officers serve under various titles, but all are professionals involved in safeguarding and managing protected and conserved areas. There are many kinds of rangers. Some work for the government while others may be employed by their own local communities or serve as volunteers. According to the ranger survey Life on the Frontlines, around a third (36%) of rangers surveyed in 28 countries were from local communities within a 12-mile radius of where they work. Conservation could not happen without them. But what exactly does a ranger do?
Rangers are frontline conservation workers, playing a critical role in protecting and safeguarding biodiversity, natural and cultural heritage, and the rights and well-being of present and future generations. They not only serve the communities that live in and around protected and conserved areas but all of us who depend on the natural world for survival.
Beyond reacting to immediate threats to nature and biodiversity, rangers monitor wildlife and habitats, enforce wildlife and protected-area laws and community by-laws on the use of their land and resources, help reduce impacts of human-wildlife conflict, educate and raise awareness of the importance of conservation, and aid communities to preserve their cultural values associated with protected and conserved areas. Rangers’ work has become even more imperative as poaching and unsustainable and illegal activities are driving the loss of species, habitats, and natural resources.
Unfortunately, there are not enough rangers to respond to these growing threats and rangers are often unrecognized, under-appreciated, and under-resourced. And they often face poor and dangerous working environments which can undermine the effectiveness of their work. The ranger workforce needs to be responsible, representative, mandated, and recognized as professionally competent to effectively implement their duties as custodians of biodiversity and the life systems we all depend on. This can only happen in a globally enabling environment where they are properly valued, led, and supported by governments, non-governmental organizations, and ranger associations.
Rangers are a critical part of the larger conservation story. We cannot save the world’s most endangered species or protect its most vital places and the natural resources we all depend on without the crucial work done by these brave individuals.