CARTER ROBERTS Langas, welcome to Washington and to WWF.
NTAYIA LEMA LANGAS Thank you, Carter. I am happy to be here with you.
CR I understand you grew up close to the Mara. What was that like? How did it influence your decision to become a ranger?
NL Yes, I grew up right outside the Mara—about 6 miles from the main gate. We had a lot of wildlife in our village, lots of elephants, so it was something I saw every day. Growing up where I did made me passionate about the environment. I joined a club in high school called Friends of Conservation and was the secretary and then chairman. Conservation is just a passion that lives inside me.
CR The area of the Maasai Mara National Reserve where you work with the Mara Conservancy, the northwestern section, is referred to as the Mara Triangle. Can you talk about why the conservancy was brought in to help manage the Mara Triangle in 2001? What were conditions like?
NL It was desolate, horrific. No one wanted to be there. There was terrible poaching and it was very unsafe. When I joined the conservancy in 2013 things were definitely better, but not as good as they are now. And many people remember how bad it was not so long ago. When the conservancy took over, they developed transboundary relationships with other governments to help coordinate antipoaching efforts. For example, a lot of poachers were coming from Tanzania, so we began working with park rangers from that country.
CR A solution that sounds so simple—but I’m sure it was not an easy thing to navigate.
NL No, not at all. But sometimes what is very difficult can end up being the most worthwhile.
CR WWF has a long history of working in the Mara. One of our earliest grants helped provide a road grader and rotary mower for the reserve.
NL So, we have both been committed to the Mara for a long time!
CR Indeed! These days, we’re focused on how to prevent poaching, which has taken a terrible toll on wildlife in the greater Maasai Mara reserve and across Africa—and around the world. Our partnership with FLIR helps provide rangers with heat-seeking, night-vision cameras to detect poachers. How have these cameras changed the way the Mara Triangle is protected?
NL The FLIR cameras are a real miracle for us. They make us feel very safe.
CR You didn’t feel safe before?
NL No. When the poachers started coming into the park at night, at first, they would use spotlights. So at least if we were in the right place at the right time, we could see them, and maybe have some success in catching them or scaring them off. But then they started coming without spotlights, and we had no hope of seeing them.
CR What’s it like now that you have the cameras?
NL Now I can very easily direct my rangers to where the poachers are. The cameras scan a huge area [approximately 3 km2, or over 1 sq. mi.], so now we can surprise the poachers—they don’t surprise us! Since getting the FLIR cameras we have arrested more than 160 poachers. We are addicted to these cameras! I wish all the national parks had this kind of technology. Then the issue of night poaching would be eradicated.
CR More and more it’s becoming obvious how dangerous field conservation can be. And the work you do—tracking and arresting poachers—can be life-threatening in the extreme.
NL Yes. To do this type of work, you must be passionate. It must be a calling. You must have it in your heart, you must have it in your blood. It is not easy at all.