Game Ranger: Someone who is responsible for the management of a game reserve. They work with ecologists, game reserve and wildlife managers; manage and monitor animal populations, maintain roads and fencing, and serve as field guides.
Rangers tracking wildlife for guests in Londolozi. photo: Eric Leininger
That in a nutshell was the job of a ranger. But today’s wildlife guides have had to evolve, not just gauge and monitor animals, but defend them with their lives.
Anti-poaching training and strategies have become the primary focus. Rangers evolved, were forced to become militarized. Working 24/7 to secure poaching hot-spots, do regular patrols to find and remove snares, gather intelligence, and set up ambushes to catch would-be poachers; all the while, keenly aware their lives are under threat.
Rangers alert and on patrol in Virunga National Park, arguably the most dangerous park due to poaching and interest in oil. photo: Soldier Systems
In 2013, Transfrontier Africa broke new ground by initiating the first all women anti-poaching teams. By engaging the community and employing local women to help protect Balule Nature Reserve, it helped empower the community and change the face of game rangers. Far from the traditional ranger, but thus far, the program has been highly successful in keeping down poaching.
Black Mambas in training exercises at Balule. photo: Protrack APU
Rangers are tough as nails and defend rhinos with their lives. So what wouldn’t they do to fight poaching?
In 2014, a former model and photographer took a unique approach to raising funds for rhino conservation. A dozen park rangers took things a step further and bared all in a naked calendar shoot. Innovative, slightly humorous, but courageous. And still quite serious. As said by one of the participants, Sibu Nziwe, “I have chosen to work for nature and give up the competition for jobs in the cities. I have sacrificed my social life with family and friends in the city for a greater cause.”
Rangers bared all in a 2015 calendar, raising awareness and funds toward their jobs and the crisis of poaching. photo: Josie Borain
What’s next? Whatever it may be, rest assured they will get it done. Dedicated, courageous, adapting-these men and women sacrifice themselves in ways most of us can’t imagine. There is nothing they can’t or won’t do. They are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and heroes. They are rangers.