Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) marked this year’s World Rangers Day (WRD) with colour and dance at its headquarters in Nairobi, August 3, 2020 at a ceremony presided over by Hon. Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife.
KWS’ theme and hashtag for the day; ‘Celebrating self-sacrifice,’ and #OurRangersOurHeroes respectively, were an apt summary of the work that rangers do and the lengths they have to go through to protect Kenya’s wildlife heritage.
The CS commended the teamwork that was evidenced by KWS, its Board of Trustees, and partners in their efforts to improve rangers’ welfare. “A ranger is a teacher, researcher, security guard, a marketer and the foundation of wildlife conservation,” he said.
Balala said he visited Meru National Park last month, where he learned of 31 new rhino births from January to date. He felt the need show his appreciation to the caretakers of these endangered animals, while at the same time, expressing love for his two beautiful granddaughters by naming two of the new rhino calves after the girls (Walia and Rayan).
He pioneered the idea to pay Kenya shillings 100,000 for the privilege of choosing a name for a rhino calf. This first 600,000 shillings was channelled towards Meru National Park Rangers. Auctioning the names of these calves has raised 3.3 million shillings to date. The Rangers Welfare Fund was thus officially launched, with the presentation of a 3.3 million shillings cheque by the CS to the rangers representing all eight conservation areas in Kenya.
The CS asked KWS management to consider combining the organisation’s Conservation Heroes’ Day, celebrated annually on December 16, together with World Rangers Day. World Rangers is officially marked on 31 July globally but this year KWS marked the day on August 3rd to allow for participation of all stakeholders since 31st July was a public holiday.
Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, IG (Rtd.) Joseph Boinnet said rangers’ work is a noble calling, which resonates with his 37 years in the Police Service. He commended the leadership in KWS, evidenced by the high morale he noted in the testimonials.
The Principal Secretary in the State Department of Wildlife in the Ministry, Prof. Fred Segor said that without rangers, conservation would not be as successful as it is in Kenya. “It is our responsibility to push your agenda forward, in order to give you the necessary support,” he said. He asked all Kenyans to honour the selfless men and women for the bravery shown whilst carrying out their duties.
The Vice Chair of KWS Board of Trustees, Betty Maitoyo, recognized and appreciated female rangers such as the Lionesses of Amboseli and the women rangers of Segera, succeeding in a previously male-dominated field. She said that the BoT and management was working to provide ranger housing as a part of the Big4 Agenda, in an effort to eliminate the so-called ‘uniports’ and provide dignified housing. “WRD is celebrated to empathize with all rangers, in addition to changing perceptions about the job,” she said.
KWS Director General, Brig. (Rtd.) John M. Waweru recognized all essential service providers in the country, such as hospital workers and mama mbogas, among others. He said that WRD is a special day for KWS and the conservation fraternity, because we remember the selfless guardians of our national parks and reserves. He lauded rangers for accepting their calling and thanked their families for their endurance whilst away from their ranger family members based in remote areas.
He exhorted attendees to greet, smile at, and thank any rangers they encountered, for their dedication to service in Kenya.
Eight (8) rangers, representing each of KWS’ conservation areas: Mountain, Southern, Northern, Coast, Western, Central Rift, Eastern and Western, gave testimonies about their work. Their experiences ranged from gunshot wounds and loss of colleagues to shiftas (bandits) bullets in Tsavo; a summary of myriad activities at KWS Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) in Manyani; apprehension of persons fishing illegally in Malindi Marine Park; a walk-through of KWS Command Centre - Communication, Earth Ranger and CCTV; assisting the Red Cross in the evacuation of deceased tourists after a tragic helicopter crash in the inhospitable terrain in Central Island National Park in Lake Turkana; attack and injury by a rhino and her calf in Lake Nakuru National Park and the removal of a leopard (Problem Animal) from a homestead in Amboseli.
Others who attended the WRD celebrations included the CEO of Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) Dickson Kaelo and representatives of KFS and the Kenya Tourism Board.
The ceremony took into consideration the stringent Ministry of Health protocols regarding Covid-19 pandemic, such as restricted attendance, social distancing, hand sanitizing and the wearing of gloves and face masks.