To-date 406 rhino have been poached in South Africa
Understanding the Wildlife Ranger
A few days ago, the wildlife rangers at Thula Thula (a private game reserve) intercepted and apprehended would be poachers, shooting one ‘In zee bum’ as French born owner Francoise delicately puts it!
As delighted as we were to hear this news, it did get us wondering again just how the rangers involved feel about their daily duties and how they cope.
Thula Thula has a crack Anti-Poaching Unit, “I would like to say that I am extremely proud of… our security team at Thula Thula for do such an exceptional work to save the wildlife against poachers.
They feel as if they are the “policemen “ of the bush and they are proud to make the law respected in the wild.”
“We employ 8 staff members just for the protection of our rhinos as they need to be protected 24/7 by 2 armed guards day and night, and we have a huge respect for these men who risk their lives every day in their anti-poaching mission. They understand the importance of keeping our rhinos safe. They all share the same passion for wildlife that Lawrence had inspired in all of us at Thula Thula.” says Francoise of her men.
Thula Thula’s rangers very kindly agreed to answer a few questions we put forward….. As much as we would like to broadcast their names here, we understand that for their continued safety, it would be wise not to do so, so we have named them Ranger 1,2,3,4.
Interview with Four Wildlife Rangers
Q. We hold people like you in high regard, no longer are you simply rangers but armed protectors too. What made you decide to become a ranger ?
Ranger 1. To protect South African Nature and the environment, animals and innocent, need to be protected.
Ranger 2. Love of nature, not just animals but nature.
Ranger 3. I love the bush and conservation, and Thula Thula.
Ranger 4. By looking at the number of Unemployed people here in SA. It was my vision and purpose to be a ranger. That is the only job I enjoy.
Q. Your family must be very proud of you and that you apprehended the alleged poachers before they could harm the wildlife you protect every day. Do you feel that your local community look up to you ?
Ranger 1. Yes and No..Some people are not educated about Nature out there in the community so do not know anything.
Ranger 2. That is challenging, coz it not all everyone, wanting this achievement.
Ranger 3. Yes
Ranger 4. Yes because I am saving animals.
Q. How do you think your friends, family and local community feel about poachers coming into your area to poach the wildlife you are protecting ?
Ranger 1. Full of fear..not only for me, they themselves do not feel safe at all.
Ranger 2. Family is very supportive of my career, and friends are also supportive.
Ranger 3. They don’t feel good.
Ranger 4. They feel bad.
Q. You must often be afraid that you might be shot at. How do you cope with high risk job that you live every day ?
Ranger 1. It’s in the heart that I am a Ranger..Yes it is risky but I am loving it. I believe in God and pray every day.
Ranger 2. Everyone is at risk, one can be shot at any job, so life itself is risky.
Ranger 3. Yes, I am afraid, but a job is a job.
Ranger 4. I have a vision and a passion about nature I have to take the risk, if it must be.
Q. Do you feel vulnerable when you are off duty, that you might be a target by the local community and/or strangers that come into your area looking for ways to poach?
Ranger 1. Yes because I do not know who the poachers are, I might be at risk off duty.
Ranger 2. Yes, but it’s all about commitment. If you committed, you’ll be proud to die for what you love.
Ranger 3. No.
Ranger 4. Yes, some people try to find informers but reported them to the police.
Q. Have you or your colleagues been approached by people looking for information on animals to poach?
Ranger 1. No.
Ranger 2. Not that I know of, probably.
Ranger 3. No.
Ranger 4. No.
Q. It cannot be a great feeling to have to shoot at someone, as you had to do this past week. Given the same circumstances, would you do the same thing ?
Ranger 1. Yes
Ranger 2. Well it takes knowing that if you don’t shoot, you’ll be shot.
Ranger 3. If I have to for my protection,, only for protection.
Ranger 4. No, I will enjoy to shoot them if this is the only way to deal with them.
Q. Would you encourage young people to become rangers ?
Ranger 1. Yes. Otherwise South Africa will be left with no animals in few years to come.
Ranger 2. Yes, we’re even teaching kids in surrounding schools, and working on getting funds to offer them bursaries.
Ranger 3. Yes for sure, so that animals can be safe and protected.
Ranger 4. Yes.
Q. If you had a choice, would you do something else or would you continue to be a ranger and look after our wildlife ?
Ranger 1. Wouldn’t mind continuing as long as I’m safe and Insured and my family is happy.
Ranger 2. Well like I always say, it’s like a calling that you can’t resist.
Ranger 3. Yes. In life we need to improve..and be a Section Ranger.
Ranger 4. I would continue to be a Ranger/Guard and be looked up to.
Q. In your opinion, how can we support rangers in the field, like yourself ?
Ranger 1. Satisfying the needs of a Ranger..i.e. Insuring his/her life..Providing safety and good/better working conditions.
Ranger 2. Show respect to them, encourage them to further their studies.
Ranger 3. Give them good pay..Good Uniform..Look after them and their families, make sure they are insured.
Ranger 4. We must be supported with all materials we need including salary.
Q. If you could have one thing to say to the powers that be to stop this poaching of our rhino, what would you say ?
Ranger 1. I am at risk as a ranger. Poachers mean business, so rangers need to be given the power to mean business too!
Ranger 2. Free education of all levels.
Ranger 3. We need more power from Government to be able to protect our lives and our Rhinos.
Ranger 4. I sent a message to the SA Government to stop this poaching.
Thank you so much to you, the Rangers who answered these questions for us. We feel that we have a little better understanding of what you face every day and also for the amazing people that you are. We deeply appreciate your dedication to wildlife and especially to the rhino.
BRAVO and a heartfelt THANK YOU from all of us !
Contributed by Ayesha Cantor