“At current poaching rates, elephants, rhinos, and other iconic African wildlife may be gone within our lifetime” predicts the African Wildlife Foundation.
At the heart of the effort to save these species is the hard work of about 20,000 rangers who risk their lives every day to protect wildlife. It’s not easy work. According to a study by the Thin Line Foundation, an average of two rangers have lost their lives every week over the last decade.
This tragic death toll is not surprising, as most rangers lack adequate training and equipment. When faced with armed and murderous poachers, they often don’t stand a chance.
“[Rangers’] performance is definitely affected by the lack of insurance, combined with the high risk factor and the lack of training and equipment. How can we expect rangers to deliver if they do not have these basic things?” asked Rohit Singh, the lead author on a World Wildlife Fund study about rangers, in an interview with the New York Times.
A number of NGOs are attempting to tackle this problem by investing in rangers’ training and protection.
The Thin Green Line Foundation is among the most active NGOs in the effort to better equip and protect rangers. Since 2014, they have spent US$1.2 million on equipment and training for rangers, reports the New York Times. They have also provided support to more than 150 families who lost a loved one in the line of duty.
Meanwhile, the NGO For Rangers raises funds for rangers’ welfare through ultra-endurance racing events. Since 2014 they have donated US$200,000 worth of equipment and aid to rangers throughout Africa.
Investing in rangers is an effective solution to poaching. Research and experience shows that when rangers receive appropriate training, poaching rates drop.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya, provides one example. Since the sanctuary started training rangers and installed a new communications system in 2014, they haven’t lost a single rhino.
Francis Kobia Chokera, 44, is one of the rangers who was trained at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. He patrols the sanctuary on foot for 12 hours each day, but he has free housing, insurance, and a pension.
“By good luck, I was given the chance to work here,” he told the New York Times.