Battling a global poaching crisis, wildlife rangers believe they lack the necessary equipment, training and support from their governments to protect themselves and the world’s threatened wildlife from poachers, according to a new WWF study released today at the World Ranger Congress in Colorado, USA.
Ranger Perceptions: Africa surveyed 570 rangers across 12 African countries and found that 82 percent had faced a life-threatening situation while on duty. But 59 percent felt they were insufficiently equipped and 42 percent felt they lacked sufficient training to do their jobs safely and effectively.
These results echo the findings of a similar survey of Asia’s rangers, the majority of whom had also risked their lives in the line of duty and felt equally ill-equipped to perform their critical frontline tasks. Preliminary results from a third survey suggest that rangers in Latin America face similar challenges.
“Africa’s rangers are doing an incredibly dangerous job with one hand tied behind their backs: putting their lives and the continent’s wildlife at even greater risk,” said Fredrick Kumah, WWF Africa Director. “Bravery is not enough: we must provide these heroic men and women – and their counterparts in Asia and Latin America – with the best available tools and training to give them the upper hand against the poachers.”
Last year alone, around 30,000 elephants and a record 1,338 rhinos were killed in Africa, while countless other animals were poached and trafficked, feeding an illegal wildlife trade that is increasingly being driven by international organised crime. Scores of rangers are also injured or die each year, with six killed on duty in the Democratic Republic of Congo and India in the past two months.
“The growing influence of organised criminal networks means governments must rapidily professionalise their ranger force, but many seem quick to promise action but slow to provide the necessary investment,” said Elisabeth McLellan, WWF Head, Wildlife Crime Initiative. “Poaching threatens communities and economies as well as species: investing in better equipment for rangers and the establishment of new training centres is a price worth paying.”
In many cases, African rangers lack not only sufficient weapons and vehicles, but also more basic necessities like boots, shelter and clean water supplies. Across the continent, there are only a few specialised ranger training centres. But it is not just a question of better tools and training, rangers also deserve improved conditions of employment and greater recognition of their work.
The survey found that many African rangers have a poor work/life balance with 47 per cent seeing their families for just five to ten days a month, while rangers ranked low or irregular pay as one of the worst aspects of their job – findings that were also shared by rangers in Asia and Latin America.
A separate WWF ranger insurance study of 33 countries across the globe, which was also released at the World Ranger Congress today, found that rangers are often not adequately covered by insurance. Despite the dangers of their jobs, many rangers lack health insurance (18 percent of countries surveyed), life insurance (36 per cent) and long-term disability cover (45 per cent).
"It is critical that we have a well-supported, skilled and motivated ranger corps in order to reduce the risk to rangers and their families,” said Chris Galliers, Chairman of the Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA). “We must invest in rangers by putting in place the right support systems as it is this investment that will secure our wild places and wildlife assets for all, forever.”