What comes to your mind when the word wildlife ranger is mentioned? A man in uniform. Maybe. Well, this was my first thought back before I actually met one personally. See, even though my childhood involved going to national parks and reserves in Kenya, never did I ever bother about rangers. All I wanted to know was the science in wildlife and not who protected it. If someone asked who rangers are a while back, the first answer would have been ‘askari wa park’ because that is what we were told. Later on, after experiencing the wilderness of Tsavo East National Park, I was able to interact with rangers at a personal level; both men and women, and get a view of what being in this profession entails.
Part of being a good steward of the environment is knowing and experiencing every wild area as much as you can, having conversations with people who are already in the profession and remembering you actually know nothing.
Rangers in the line of duty go through a lot. Even though they undergo a paramilitary course, there is a difference between what you are taught and what you will experience in the field. Some days can be easy, while others not so much.
Ever wondered what goes through a rangers mind when the wildlife they are protecting is killed by poachers? This is never a good feeling. With close to 7.5 billion people we are yet to understand grief even though we are technologically advanced. People get murdered and it becomes the topic of discussion for a really long time. War heroes come back home having witnessed the death of men, women and children and life is never the same again.
You may think, well, animals are just animals and their deaths do not matter. However, when you are protecting wildlife which has fallen into the hands of poachers and illegal wildlife trade which is cleverly organized you know why and who you are fighting. You wonder why an animal has to die because of unbelievable myths such as traditional medicine or used as a beautiful art piece, cutlery, rug or fashionable item.
Becoming a wildlife ranger is not a last resort, yet we have made it that way. Some children want to grow up to become rangers. They want to protect wildlife as they see other grownups, there role models, do so bravely.
Unfortunately, Rangers face plenty of hardships while in the field, and we are not talking about the weather. Poachers are definitely not their best of friends. They have better weapons, gear and equipment compared to rangers. Even though their morale has been taken for granted they still fight on. Wild animals will always be wild and rangers have to be alert at all times because anything could happen. An animal is not sure whether to trust you or not because today the human can be kind and gentle and the next day they want to take a part of your body without asking. Who to trust as an animal wholly depends on instincts, yet they will still fall prey to poachers; there number one predators. Wild animals are not the only ones to be killed. Rangers have been killed as well by poachers.
Life changes when an elephant, rhino, tiger, orangutan or gorilla is killed. As the sole protector of wildlife, you will think you have failed. Life changes when your friend, whom you went to training together and have worked to protect wildlife dies in the line of duty.
It may seem all gloom and not glamorous, but imagine waking up every morning to the sound of a roaring lion and the melodious songs and calls of birds. To the sound of an elephant’s trumpet call. The sight of a snake peacefully slithering away to witnessing a live hunting session. This can motivate you to wake up every morning to ensure wild spaces are protected.
Rangers, despite the many challenges they face daily, are to be remembered every day as they risk their lives to protect wildlife.