On the frontline of defense of the world’s threatened wildlife and natural resources are the protected area enforcement rangers, who patrol day and night over inhospitable terrain. Their vigilance represents, in many cases, the only obstacle between globally important species and the criminals driving them to extinction.
Protected area rangers carry out their work at great personal risk from disease, accidents, and encounters with violent criminal groups. Over the last ten years more than 1,000 are known to have been killed in action, with an even larger number injured or maimed. In the first half of 2013 alone, a confirmed eighty-five rangers have lost their lives. It is possible many more have been unreported.
Many protected areas in developing countries lack sufficient financial support from government agencies. As a result, many rangers in these countries lack even the most basic training, equipment, medical insurance, and financial compensation.
In my work with FREELAND Foundation to help protect tigers and other species in Thailand’s Eastern Forest Complex (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), I’ve worked closely with these dedicated rangers. I’m constantly amazed by the job these individuals do to protect Thailand’s natural heritage, despite great personal risk, little pay, and almost no recognition. In some cases, these individuals do not even have enough food to conduct patrols.
Over the past several months, rangers in this area have faced more numerous and increasingly violent poachers. During this time, two rangers we have worked with have been shot by poachers, one killed. Furthermore, another ranger was severely injured by a bear, requiring extensive medical care and facial reconstruction. These individuals and their families do not receive financial assistance from the Thai government. Others that do their job have recently received death threats.
These people are true heroes of conservation. They deserve better.
If you are interested in providing support for these individuals, please take a look at my World Ranger Day journal entry
or visit FREELAND.org