Wildlife Guardianship Program
In response to the current and increasing rhino poaching crisis in South Africa, a joint initiative between the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) and the Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA) gave rise to the Wildlife Guardianship Program. All training takes place at the SAWC which is a strategic partner of the GRAA. The driving force behind the realization of the program has been the Liberty Wildlife Foundation (LWF) who has been the main sponsor of the various field ranger training programs carried out.
Purpose of the training
In order to curb the current trend in poaching, it is important to have trained and experienced people on the ground. The field rangers are the first and often last line of defence when poaching incidents occur in protected areas. In order to carry out this function they require dedication, physical fitness and a high level of skills. The training is structured in such a manner that it develops within individuals an understanding and appreciation for the natural environment.
The training consists of a theoretical component together with a large amount of practical training and experiences. The participants get a chance to apply the knowledge gained during classroom lectures when they go out on patrols and participate in field activities. The training also allows for participants to discuss amongst each other, and with trainers the challenges encountered in their workplaces and in doing so work out solutions. Role play and discussions are also used as methods of evaluating the participants.
Training done in 2014
The Wildlife Guardianship Programme, a joint initiative between the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) and the GRAA, continues to make an impact on the training and deployment of field rangers in South African reserves. This programme is designed mainly for field rangers to equip them for daily responsibilities in their workplaces. The driving force behind the realization of the programme has been the Liberty Wildlife Foundation which has been the main sponsor of various field ranger training projects. 125 participants were trained during the Wildlife Guardianship Programme: Basic Field Ranger training held during the year. The continuous support of stakeholders such as the Liberty Wildlife Foundation, Friends of African Wildlife, SAWCT, SCIF, GRAA and African Field Rangers Training Services to the SAWC will result in steady growth in the amount of qualified and competent field rangers who will serve as guardians to our natural resources.
Course outcomes: Basic Field ranger training program
As a result of the training they received, the students are able to:
o Demonstrate an understanding of nature conservation issues and conduct activities in an environmentally sensitive manner.
o Carry out designated conservation security practices according to a plan, e.g. conduct routine security patrols in order to deter, detect and combat illegal activities within an area of responsibility.
o Gather and report accurately on local and keystone wildlife species information to be used for population management purposes.
o Demonstrate in their behavior and lifestyle, a set of values and ethics centering on respect for self, others and the environment.
o Implement sound occupational health and safety practices in the workplace according to a plan.
On completion of the training rangers are prepared mentally and physically to go back to their workplaces and implement what they have learnt.
To date over 675 rangers across various national parks, reserves and community areas have been trained through the initiative. 515 have received the basic field ranger training (armed and unarmed) and a further 160 have been trained in special skills.
There is no doubt that many more rangers will be benefit from this initiative in the years to come.
Watch the Kaelo Stories of Hope episode about the Wildlife Guardianship Program below.