This year’s World Ranger Day was celebrated across the globe last weekend with the wildlife conservation fraternity showering praises on gallant rangers who go to great lengths to protect and conserve the precious gem - wildlife.
World Ranger Day was designated with a mission to afford the world the chance to show its solidarity with rangers and empathize with them. It is also aimed at changing public attitudes towards the job of a ranger by awakening in everyone the spirit of conservation.
The adverse effects of COVID-19, however, spoilt the party for this year’s celebrations marked on Saturday, July 31 with many countries, including Kenya, scaling down the festivity to avoid physical human contact, which is known to aid spread of the dangerous virus. This did not, however, stop leaders from sending their goodwill messages of praise to encourage rangers to keep up with their noble duty.
In his message, Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary, Hon. Najib Balala, urged governments and organisations to continue supporting resilient and incredibly courageous rangers. “If our wildlife could speak, they would thank God first, and thank our rangers second, for being such a strong shield against poachers,” Hon. Balala said.
The Cabinet Secretary regretted that the corona virus pandemic is wreaking havoc worldwide, and bringing the largest economies to their knees. He, however, noted that there is a silver lining to COVID-19, that is, the inevitability of adjusting to a new normal, which is a stark global reminder that frontline workers are invaluable; deserving of so much more recognition than the world grants them.
Hon. Balala termed rangers as the “cement that seals the continued survival of biodiversity”, noting that, “Often, they live away from their families, working well into the night and even risking their lives so that our wildlife can thrive.” He immortalised rangers for going head to head with poachers, adding that more recently, they have had to deal with the surge in illegal bush meat trade, as communities engage in it to mitigate the detrimental effects of Covid-19 on their livelihoods.
The duties of a ranger go far beyond patrolling their areas of work. For example, they do ecological monitoring of key endangered species; carry out investigative and intelligence duties; ensure visitor security; conduct search and rescue for distress visitors lost in protected areas; respond to emergencies such as bush fire fighting; attend to human-wildlife conflict cases, as well as a host of other important duties for the benefit of communities.
The Cabinet Secretary concluded his message to rangers by stating: “History is more than the path left by the past, because it can shape the future. May the World Ranger Day commemorations be on such a scale as to leave them with no doubt of how much we value their dedication and celebrate their self-sacrifice. On behalf of KWS, conservancies, the Kenya government and indeed the entire world, I salute all rangers”.
On his part, KWS Director General, Brigadier (Rtd.) John Waweru, said KWS is proud of the heroism of her rangers who go to great lengths to protect wildlife, sometimes at great risk to their lives, with some dying or getting injured in the line of duty. He said KWS has lost 75 rangers while in active duty. “We empathize with their families for the loss of loved ones. We assure them of our support even as we nurse fond memories of the times we spent together in the course of our noble duties,” he said, adding “their patriotism and selflessness will continue to inspire those of us left behind to conserve wildlife.”
He singled out for special mention a German NGO, International Foundation for Nature (NABU), for continued assistance to families of departed rangers. While thanking NABU for the assistance, the DG appealed to other well wishers to come forward and support this kind gesture.
Brig. (Rtd) Waweru thanked the government through the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife for continued assistance, in terms of budgetary support and policy matters. He said the management of KWS through the guidance of Board of Trustees pays special attention to the welfare of staff, and singled out an enhanced medical scheme implemented earlier this year.
The Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Mr Joseph Boinet in his message said wildlife conservation and protection is the core business of KWS and this calls for a dynamic model to deal with current challenges. He urged the Service to embrace new technology and secure modern equipment for security operations.
The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Prof. Fred Segor, praised KWS’ theme for this year’s World Ranger Day: Sacrifice and Commitment to Duty with the hashtag being #BraveryBeyondExpectation. He noted that this was a fitting summary for a ranger’s job description, in keeping with the highest traditions of rangers the world over.
Prof. Segor said rangers are called upon to accept more than a special share of conservation’s challenges and responsibilities, and applauded their bravery. He said World Ranger Day recognises the sacrifices rangers make whilst furthering the conservation mandate. “To make the work of rangers lighter, the Kenya government has committed one billion shillings to pay the salaries of some 5,500 community scouts rangers for a period of one year,” the PS said.