On 31 July we celebrate World Ranger Day in appreciation of the guardians looking after our natural heritage. Every day these men and women risk their lives for our wildlife and natural environment. Wild takes a peek behind the scenes to find out what the job entails.
In celebration of World Ranger Day, Wild spoke to three rangers to gain insight into the day-to-day lives of those who live and breathe conservation.
Ryan Jack, Hottentots-Holland Nature Reserve
When did you decide to become a ranger?
I was inspired to become a ranger at an early age. Learning about nature when I joined the eco-club in primary school developed my interest. Today it is my career and passion.
Is the job everything you expected it to be?
Everything and more! In primary school I was exposed only to the basic ideas and concepts of conservation. Actively working in the field really opened my eyes to the ecological consequences of human actions.
Wildlands firefighting is also something I never associated with nature conservation, but it has grown to be one of my key responsibilities. It is something I’ve become very passionate about.
What are some of the challenges you deal with in your work?
The challenges vary from season to season. High intensity fires occur during the summer season, which often demands that I spend a lot of time away from home. During this time I’m climbing mountains and fighting fires side by side with firemen from other nature reserves and fire stations. As a ranger, my job is to protect the environment and to ensure that it is a healthy system. This sometimes sounds much easier than it has proved to be
Has your career as ranger taken you to other nature reserves and national parks?
I was selected to study further within CapeNature (NQF level 5) and spent nine months in the Kruger National Park. I also represented CapeNature at a conference in Botswana regarding the illegal international trade of fauna and flora.
Rangani Tsanwani, Section Ranger Olifants-Nxanatseni in the Kruger National Park
What has been your most memorable experience as a ranger?
One unforgettable experience was when I was surprised by an elephant bull in musth. I was almost trampled by the bad-tempered ellie. It was a terrifying moment as an elephant charge is nothing to laugh about. I consider myself lucky to have narrowly escaped such a hair-raising moment in the bush.
What is the biggest challenge you face as ranger in the Kruger National Park?
I would consider rhino poaching to be the biggest problem rangers are currently facing. It’s an awful feeling when you come across a dead animal in the bush.
Rhino conservation and the protection of other vulnerable and endangered species is extremely important. Endangered species like the rhino make up our heritage and we (as rangers) are responsible to look after them for future generations.
If you could give advice to future rangers, what would it be?
The work that we do is physically and mentally demanding, but it is very satisfying knowing that you are contributing towards the bigger picture of biodiversity and conservation management in South Africa.
Rangers should work together as a team, they should be loyal and remain honest. Whatever you do, do not be tempted by and get involved with poachers
Hilton Bocks, Knersvlakte Nature Reserve
What makes your reserve special?
Knersvlakte Nature Reserve is a unique reserve within the succulent Karoo. It doesn’t only speak to botanists, but to your sense of wellbeing. The Succulent Karoo is one of the biological wonders of the world, with unrivalled levels of diversity and endemism for an arid area. For me, the quartz patches and the special plants which you discover when you take the time to look at the ground make this reserve so special. The well-adapted fauna that you find within this area is spectacular.
What can the public do to support rangers in their work?
Take time to talk to us about why conservation is so important. Assist us with law enforcement by giving us information if you know of any illegal or unsavoury activities. I don’t think everyone fully understands what conservation involves. When jobs are advertised, people tend to apply not knowing what the work entails.
It is important that our communities surrounding reserves understand the importance of the reserve, which will then lead to better interaction and (possibly) job creation.
World Ranger Day is marked on 31 July in commemoration of rangers killed or injured in the line of duty. It is an opportunity to celebrate the vital work rangers do to protect our natural and cultural treasures.
What are you doing for World Ranger Day? Use your Wild Card and visit one of our national parks and nature reserves to say thank you to our rangers!