Call for action against increasing risk to game rangers
“Rangers are the guardians of our planet’s most precious natural assets and it’s unnerving to think that every day they go to work, their lives are at risk as a result of human greed and cruelty,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “Without solid protection, proper law enforcement and a strong support network for those unsung heroes of conservation, our efforts to protect wildlife are a lost case. Any conservation action should start with supporting those that put their lives on the line to protect it every day.”
Fifty-six rangers have lost their lives in the line of duty in the last 12 months, 29 of whom have been killed by poachers, according to the latest information released today by the International Ranger Federation, which has been monitoring ranger deaths since 2000. Last year’s death toll has reached 102, with poachers and militia responsible for 69 of those deaths. In Africa, 27 rangers have lost their lives in the line of duty in the last 12 months, with nearly 80% of them killed by poachers. As more deaths are reported every week and as the figures represent only the confirmed deaths from some 35 countries that voluntarily report to the IRF, the actual number of rangers killed in the line of duty worldwide could be two to three times higher.
“Rangers need to be better prepared in order to not only safeguard wildlife but also themselves,” says Chris Galliers, Chairman of the GRAA. “The GRAA aims to ensure all rangers are well supported and trained to the highest standards possible. It is for this reason that rangers today need to band together as a community of practice on the frontline of conservation of the next generations’ natural heritage.” India, Thailand, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have seen the sharpest increase in ranger deaths caused by poachers in recent years. Areas rich in elephants, rhinos, sandalwood, rosewood and other valuable resources are most affected. In DRC’s Virunga National Park alone, some 140 rangers have been killed in the last 15 years.
“We are extremely concerned that rangers continue to face high levels of violence and are being murdered at an alarming pace,” says Sean Willmore, President of the IRF. “Although the world is slowly awakening to their plight, we need to convert this awareness to meaningful action on the ground and make sure that the dangerous work rangers do to protect our valuable wildlife receives the support and respect it deserves. This still remains our challenge.”
In South Africa, which lost more than 1,000 rhinos in 2013, and 558 so far in 2014 at a rate of nearly 3 rhinos per day, a rhino poacher has recently been sentenced to 77 years in prison — possibly the heaviest penalty handed to wildlife criminals to date. The extent and impact of illegal wildlife trade and new approaches to combat it, including effective enforcement strategies to combat wildlife poaching and associated crime, will be discussed at the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 where rangers will be well represented (World Parks Congress 12th to 19th November in Sydney, Australia).
"It is my great honour to acknowledge the brave and tireless work of the world’s park rangers [...]," says HRH The Duke of Cambridge Prince William. "Poaching has reached catastrophic levels and in this year when the World Parks Congress unites conservationists across the globe, as President of United for Wildlife, I will be encouraging as many people as possible to think of park rangers and the extraordinary work that they do."
"Wildlife crime has become a serious threat to the sovereignty and the stability of some of our countries," says President of Gabon and Patron of the IUCN World Parks Congress Ali Bongo Ondimba. "Poachers do not hesitate to fire upon our park rangers. In some countries they are involved in a bush war as intense as any modern conflict."
Notes to editors:
• More than 1,000 rangers have been killed worldwide and many more injured over the last 10 years. • A record number of 1,004 rhinos were killed in 2013 in South Africa, which is home to 83% of Africa’s rhinos. 343 rhino-related poaching arrests were made in the same year. • Over 20,000 elephants were illegally killed in Africa in the past year alone. • Rangers in Uganda, DRC and Rwanda have been directly responsible for an increase in the number of Mountain Gorillas, risking their lives to ensure the survival of this Critically Endangered species. • Community Maasai Rangers in Kenya have helped increase the local lion population on their community lands from just 6 individuals to over 70.
A number of events are being held around the globe to mark World Ranger Day, including South Africa, Australia and Thailand. Messages of support to rangers have come through from around the world, including from HRH The Duke of Cambridge Prince William and HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco. An e-kit including messages form HRH The Duke of Cambridge Prince William and HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and Dr Jane Goodall, the Honour Roll of Rangers lost this year can be downloaded here.
A series of prime time debates at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, the World Leaders’ Dialogues, will include a session called “The Nature of Crime”, which will debate effective enforcement strategies to combat wildlife poaching and associated crime. The Dialogue will bring together the President of Gabon Ali Bongo Ondimba, the Australian Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt, CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon, Director of the Environment Investigation Agency Mary Rice and President of the IRF Sean Willmore, and will be moderated by the award-winning Kenyan journalist Jeff Koinange.
IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN’s work focuses on valuing and conserving nature, ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development. IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,200 government and NGO Members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world.
About The Game Rangers’ Association Of Africa (GRAA)
The Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA) was founded in 1970 as a non-racial, non-political organisation. The Game Rangers Association of Africa is a properly constituted association and has been registered as a non-profit organisation. The Game Rangers Association of Africa is a longstanding and well established defined community of practice. The Game Rangers’ Association of Africa provides support, networks and representation for game rangers across Africa. The Game Rangers Association of Africa believes that game rangers should operate with pride, and with passion for their profession whilst promoting best management practices in ensuring the conservation of our natural heritage. The Game Rangers Association of Africa believes that the continued future existence of Africa’s wilderness and its wildlife is ultimately and irrevocably linked to the expertise, ethics and motivation of those tasked with the “on the ground” protection and management of this priceless asset. This involves inter alia the conservation of the natural heritage, and the promotion of sustainable utilization of natural resources, ecotourism, community involvement and environmental education. The Ranger in Africa has many real needs, but without real support and relevant training the Ranger will fail, and Africa’s priceless natural and cultural heritage will be lost forever.
About the IRF
The non-profit organization The International Ranger Federation (IRF) and its charity arm The Thin Green Line Foundation were established to raise awareness of and support the critical work that the world’s park rangers do in conserving our natural and cultural heritage. Founded in 1992, the IRF has a membership of 63 ranger associations from 46 countries, on six of the seven continents. 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.
About the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014
Conserving the earth’s most valuable natural places and promoting nature’s solutions to global challenges is the focus of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 taking place in Sydney, Australia from 12 to 19 November. The world’s 200,000 protected areas, covering over 14% of land and nearly 3% of the oceans, conserve threatened wildlife, boost our food, water and climate security, and help people reconnect with nature. With its theme “Parks, people, planet: inspiring solutions”, the Congress will bring together people from all walks of life to showcase protected areas as the best investment in our planet’s – and our own – future.
For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Danielle Henry, Australian Media & Public Affairs Manager, IUCN World Parks Congress m +61 4 77 718 738