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.
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
“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
“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
“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.
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
“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.
“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
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).
*This period refers to July 2017 – 2018