Today, European Wilderness Society, together with the International Ranger Federation and Rangers all over the world celebrates World Ranger Day! This year we praise our conservation heroes for the 13th time. Rangers work in protected areas to preserve our last remaining Wilderness. They help to conduct scientific research, guide and educate visitors about the beauty of nature, protect animals and plants from offenders, rescue lost or injured people, fight fires and much more. Rangers are often sacrificing their health and leaving their families behind, facing poachers, warfare, illegal loggers, politicians, inadequate incomes – just to fulfill their passion for protecting wildlife. Surely, our protected areas would look much different without them!
World Ranger Day is celebrated globally on July 31st to commemorate Rangers killed or injured in the line of duty and to celebrate the work Rangers do to protect the planet’s natural treasures and cultural heritage. Let’s pause for a moment to remember and honor the courage and sacrifice that Rangers make.
Dangers of Ranger work
Injuries and deaths are a common part of a ranger’s work, unfortunately. Just a few months ago, heartbreaking news from Virunga national park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) shocked the world. This park is considered to be the most dangerous conservation project in the world. 700 Rangers are employed to protect critically endangered mountain gorillas and many more rare species of the area. In April 2020, a local rebel group attacked and killed 12 Rangers, who were protecting a convoy of civilians; more people were injured. This is one of many incidents that involved deaths of Rangers. Unfortunately, this year the International Ranger Federation has recorded highest number of fatalities since the start of the Roll of Honor in 2009 (137 deaths). This is a major concern to the Ranger family and the whole conservation community.
Of the seven International Ranger Federation regions, Asia had the greatest number of Rangers killed, making up to 48% of all Ranger deaths, whilst Africa had the second highest number of Ranger deaths, at 30%. The main cause of death on duty for Rangers was homicide (43 deaths: 31% of all deaths) with these deaths also occurring mostly in Africa and Asia. In addition, the environment, in which Rangers work, can be hostile and dangerous; they are often threatened by the very animals that they serve to protect. Animals accounted for the second highest cause of Ranger fatalities, with 24 deaths (18% of all deaths).
Support for Rangers
Various organizations are putting effort into making Rangers’ jobs safer. One of them is The International Ranger Federation (IRF) – a non-profit organization established to raise awareness of and support the critical work that the world’s park Rangers do in conserving our natural and cultural heritage. The role of the IRF is to empower Rangers by supporting their national or state Ranger organizations, or assisting in the establishment of local Ranger associations in countries, where they do not currently exist.
The European Wilderness Society is an Associate Member of the International Ranger Federation and part of the global Ranger Family. Through our work and efforts for the partners in the European Wilderness Network, we support Wilderness Rangers out in the field. For example, with our Vlado Vancura Wilderness Academy and in cooperation with EOCA, we organized an online Ranger training targeted at protected area staff this spring. More than 50 participants from around Europe learnt more about Rangers’ daily duties.
“New deal” for wildlife Rangers
A group of international conservation organizations, including Fauna & Flora International, Force For Nature, Global Wildlife Conservation, International Ranger Federation, Panthera, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, World Wildlife Fund, and Zoological Society of London, have formed the Universal Ranger Support Alliance (URSA). This alliance will deliver an action plan for wildlife Rangers worldwide. URSA aims to support better training, safety and equality for rangers; to support their work in building trusted relationships with communities; and to generate a greater recognition of the critical value of their work.
So on this World Ranger Day we invite you to voice your thanks to the Rangers – honor those who have fallen and celebrate those that continue their work as Earth’s guardians. They are the ones on the frontier of conservation that are critical for our planet’s future.