Images by Marcus Westberg
Ahead of World Ranger Day on Saturday 31 July 2021, more than 150 ranger teams across Africa are gearing up for the 2021 Wildlife Ranger Challenge, a multi-million-dollar fundraising initiative culminating on 18 September and supporting thousands of the men and women on the frontline of Africa’s protected areas.
Africa’s rangers are stretched to capacity and continue to see drastic cuts in resources and an increase in poaching due to the devastating economic impact of Covid-19. The Wildlife Ranger Challenge, a 21km race across the varied and challenging terrain of Africa’s Protected Areas, will support rangers to safeguard the continent’s iconic wildlife for years to come.
A new survey, conducted by Tusk and NATURAL STATE with 60 field conservation organisations across 19 African countries, found that Wildlife Rangers see no relief in sight, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact Africa’s communities and wildlife. The pressures on Africa’s protected areas threaten to compromise decades of development and conservation success through:
(1) A continental-wide collapse of wildlife tourism. The Covid-19 crisis has eliminated essential funding for wildlife protection that comes from tourism.
Frankfurt Zoological Society, North Luangwa, Zambia: “The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt in Nsumbu, particularly through the continued loss of tourism and the income derived which both directly and indirectly support rangers. This reduced tourism has impacted jobs and related livelihoods and provided a challenge in linking the value of nature with the value to human life.”
(2) A rise in poaching. The economic stresses of Covid-19 on communities, and reduced ranger presence, has resulted in an increase in poaching, but the threat is expected to increase further with ranger capacity remaining low and as international borders open.
Conservation & Wildlife Fund, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe: “Once lockdown restrictions started easing, poachers leapt back into action – the number of traps and snares recovered increased by 8,000% between May and July 2020.”
The need to get behind the men and women working on the anti-poaching front line is perhaps greater than ever. Poaching rates across Africa are rising. Decades of development and conservation successes are at risk. Those fighting the battle urgently need our solidarity and support.
Funds raised will cover the operating costs for at least 5,000 rangers, enabling them to provide for their families, protect communities and wildlife in some of the continent’s most vulnerable areas. Tusk, NATURAL STATE, Game Rangers Association of Africa, The Thin Green Line, For Rangers, and the International Ranger Federation have partnered with 60 conservation areas to launch the pan-African challenge. The Scheinberg Relief Fund, the Challenge’s founding donor, has generously committed another $1.35m of matching funds in support of rangers, on top of the $5m provided in 2020, with the goal of raising a total of $5m in 2021. In addition, for a second consecutive year, EJF Philanthropies contributed at Elephant Platinum Sponsorship level of $100,000.