Stories Untold: 16 Rangers Reveal Struggles We Know Nothing About

In Wildlife
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Rangers around the world put their lives in danger to protect wildlife. And we’ve not been doing enough. 107 rangers were killed in the line of duty this year* alone. Half of them left their families behind without life insurance.

wildlife conservation rangers
“I’ve loved the forest since I was little, and both my parents are also forest rangers.” – Ranger
© Jonathan Caramanus / Green Renaissance / WWF-UK

In a recent global ranger survey Life on the Frontline 2018 covering countries in Africa and Asia like Kenya, Uganda, Indonesia and Malaysia, it brings to light the dire working conditions of rangers. Working on average 76 hours a week and earning less than 9 US dollars a day, 60 per cent revealed they didn’t have access to basic needs like shelter and clean drinking water while on patrol.

17 countries. 294 survey sites. 20 months. 6 conservation partners. 

4,686 rangers responded.

From dangerous poaching gangs to life-threatening diseases, we are calling for appropriate interventions. Below, 16 rangers share personal difficult-to-talk-about topics they face on the job daily:

Scant medical benefits

One in four have had malaria in the last 12 months with 80 per cent claiming to have rare or no access to mosquito nets on patrol.

“Last year, I got pregnant but I had to execute my responsibilities, including going for patrols. We usually patrol for 15 days before coming back to camp. I was part of the patrol until I was six-months pregnant. It was an experience I wished I could avoid but couldn’t because not going to the patrols meant no extra allowances which I desperately needed. Most female rangers do this, which is extremely risky for both mother and child.” –  Ranger 

wildlife conservation rangers
“When we get injured in the jungle it is difficult to get medical treatment, especially for injuries that require a doctor or a hospital. There is no helicopter to lift us out and take us to the hospital for emergency treatment.” – Ranger
© Jonathan Caramanus / Green Renaissance / WWF-UK

“A female ranger told me of another challenge that they face, which is menstruation cycles that come unexpectedly while on patrol. She says she knows females who have had to use their socks in place of sanitary pads.” – Ranger

Inadequate employment benefits and protection

50 per cent are not provided with insurance to cover fatalities at work.

“I trust my fellow rangers 100 per cent because I cannot go alone to the forest – and if I am wounded, he will carry me back to the village. We all wear the same uniform, so he is more like my brother.” – Ranger

wildlife conservation rangers
“The size of the forest area is not proportional to the number of forest rangers.” – Ranger
© Ranjan Ramchandani / WWF

“There are too many tasks assigned for any given job title, and the staff is not paid according to the tasks he completes.” – Ranger

“To the outside world, working in the bush can sometimes appear to be a glamorous profession. No illusions should be created as to the realities of the job at hand. All conservation efforts in Africa will amount to very little without a well-led, well-supported, well-skilled, well-resourced, dedicated and motivated field force.” – Chris Galliers, Game Ranger Association of Africa

Poor equipment and trainings to perform on the job

38 per cent felt they had not received adequate training when they started the job and refresher training was also not commonly reported.

“Lack of equipment leads us to expect results to be poor.” – Ranger

wildlife conservation rangers
“The problem faced by rangers during patrol is that we don’t have adequate equipment to perform our work, like boots and raincoats.” – Ranger
© Simon Rawles / WWF-UK
wildlife conservation rangers
“Training opportunities are not equally shared. That is very disappointing.” – Ranger
© Ranjan Ramchandani / WWF

“There is a need for training updates, especially in investigation and legal procedures.” – Ranger

“To have the conservation work done properly, there must be support from the management, including the proper gear that is required on the ground.”– Ranger

Below, see how we helped to train 45 Myanmar rangers last year:

Limited communication tools 

59 per cent didn’t have access to basic communications devices while on patrol.

wildlife conservation rangers
“… I often must be far from my family and I’m cut off from the outside world. This makes my family worry constantly about me, but they are not able to contact me because of lack of communication means.”– Ranger
© Ami Vitale / WWF-UK

Corruption dealt poorly 

82 per cent of rangers think their job is dangerous due to the grave risks associated with encountering or confronting poachers.

“It is frightening to note that over 50 per cent of surveyed wildlife rangers fear for their own safety if exposing corruption in wildlife protection.”         –  Arne Strand, Director, U4 Anti-corruption Resource Centre, Norway

wildlife conservation rangers
“Rangers take bribes not because their salaries are inadequate, they take them because they think no one notices. I don’t know how to report anonymously, but it would be good to be able to report in this way to have those responsible charged.” – Ranger
© Greg Armfield / WWF-UK

“Some rangers may participate in corrupt activities for personal gains, other rangers would report their fellow rangers if they witnessed them participating in corruption. It is my personal belief that corruption can be minimised by strict punishment, immediate termination from job and imposing heavy penalty on corrupt officials.” – Ranger

Also: Watch Kenyan wildlife ranger Harrison’s open letter to Singapore here.

Difficult community relations

One in three have been subjected to verbal abuse, bullying, harassment or have received threats from local communities while on patrol.

wildlife conservation rangers
“The community should be handled with care and in a friendly manner. Aggression will not help.” – Ranger
© Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom / WWF-Greater Mekong

“It is challenging when we face members of the community who do not understand our work and forestry laws. They see us as the enemy.” – Ranger

“We are working on various approaches that can help build partnerships between communities and rangers but governments need to step up and help amplify these efforts which must extend beyond conservation to achieve lasting impact.” – Rohit Singh, Zero Poaching Lead of WWF and President of Ranger Federation of Asia  

Ensuring that the rangers are safe and as a result, nature and wildlife too, are at the top of our priority.
© Emmanuel Rondeau / WWF-UK

WWF is working closely with governments and concerned partners to address the issues outlined above: Adequate training, strong emergency medical treatment plans and provide field-appropriate equipment and communications devices, among others.

Important note: For added anonymity to protect the safety and job security of rangers, verbal consent was provided to ensure that respondents did not have to record or sign their names.

This article is adapted from the Life on the Frontline 2018 survey (see the full report here). 

Love reading this? See our insider’s scoop on Ivory Lane, this rare bird that China is demanding for, and how we helped to close 4 Golden Triangle shops in Asia

*This period refers to July 2017 – 2018


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