World Ranger Day: honoring our wildlife protectors

World Ranger Day: honoring our wildlife protectors

Commentary by: Laurel Neme
July 31, 2014

Like Memorial Day, when we honor our nation's military veterans, World Ranger Day is a day to recognize and celebrate the thousands of rangers who put their lives on the line as they protect wildlife and natural resources around the world.

To commemorate this day, the International Ranger Federation released a Ranger Roll of Honor listing 56 rangers who lost their lives in the line of duty over the last 12 months. It includes rangers like Dexter Chilunda, who worked in Zambia's Liuwa Plains National Park and was killed by poachers last May, and Ltadamwa Lardagos, who worked as a key member of Northern Rangelands Trust's multi-ethnic team of conservancy rangers in northern Kenya and was killed by cattle raiders who'd evaded capture for days, as well as many who remain un-named.

Because not all deaths are reported, or they're reported later, the true number on the ranger honor roll is likely more likely two to three times the amount noted.

Around the world people are marking this day through various events and social media.

For example, the International Ranger Federation, in conjunction with the IUCN World Parks Congress, organized a Twitterstorm to get the topic trending on Twitter on the day itself.

Others, such as Jane Goodall and the Duke of Cambridge, have taken to the online airwaves with World Ranger Day messages. Many others, from CITES Secretary General John Scanlon to wildlife organizations like World Wildlife Fund, released written statements and posted messages of support on Facebook and Twitter.


Patrol officer with Indonesia's Rhino Protection Unit or RPU, elite wildlife rangers. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

In South Africa, SANParks is holding several events (such as at the Paul Kruger Gate and Garden Route National Park among others) with prayers, flag raisings, parades and speeches.

UNITE for the Environment, which operates in Uganda around Kibale National Park, posted a photo on Facebook of a young boy holding a sign saying he wants to be a ranger that took social media by storm. Thanks to the support raised by the photo, the boy received funding for his first two years of secondary school. “He is well on his way to making his dream of being a ranger come true!” UNITE commented.

In Melbourne, Australia, a five-hour-long concert, called "Greenline Grooves for World Ranger Day," will raise funds and celebrate the work of rangers through the music of more than six bands.

In Australia, Queensland National Park rangers will host several "meet and greets," such as one at Queen Street mall in Brisbane. In other places, such as Girraween National Park, they'll include a slide show on "A Day in the Life of a Girraween ranger" and also screen The Thin Green Line documentary. In other national parks, guided ranger walks will spotlight both the rangers and the resources they protect.

Still more events will bring together the rangers themselves. The Game Rangers' Association of Africa (GRAA), a non-profit organization with 1,500 members across Africa, is hosting a workshop in Johannesburg where rangers will come together to share experiences,

In addition, GRAA and South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs will host the Rhino Conservation Awards to recognize exceptional individuals and organizations protecting Africa's rhinos. With five categories—best field ranger, best conservation practitioner, best political and judicial support, best science research & technology, and best awareness, education or funding—the awards will highlight the many dimensions required in the fight against poaching.

Yet the work continues. A routine security check of vehicles entering Kruger National Park this morning uncovered a firearm, ammunition and poaching related equipment in a vehicle. Rangers arrested the driver but two passengers who were in the vehicle fled. Investigations are underway.

Big or small, the events and messages show rangers matter. Take a moment: say thanks to the rangers.