The 2022 Wildlife Ranger Challenge on 17 September, including an all-star team participating at the African Ranger Congress in Kasane, Botswana, saw thousands of rangers come together to raise funds and awareness for rangers across Africa. The first place team was the DNPW Nsumbu team from Nsumbu National Park in Zambia with a time of 02:08:56.
In a world-first, the event witnessed an elite team of four wildlife rangers unite from across three African countries to complete the Challenge, in a show of pan-African camaraderie and teamwork. Rangers participating in Kasane and across the continent completed the gruelling half marathon Challenge whilst carrying 22kg (10kg for women’s teams) – a weight equivalent to an average fully packed check-in suitcase.
Racing across Africa’s protected areas, the wildlife rangers united around one common goal: to raise vital funds for frontline conservation efforts at a time when resources are more thinly stretched than ever before. Previous years’ campaigns have raised a total of more than £10 million, which Tusk hopes to build upon as the final fundraising results come in.
As guardians of the natural world, wildlife rangers play a critical role in protecting natural, cultural and historical heritage. However, all too often, rangers operate under poor and dangerous working conditions.
According to a Global Survey of the Working Conditions of Rangers conducted by WWF, the average ranger works almost 90 hours a week, with over 60 per cent surveyed having no access to clean drinking water on patrol or at outpost stations, and almost 40 per cent reporting they regularly have no access to shelter while on patrol at night.
The lack of resources is compounded by extremely dangerous working conditions, with threats, violence, injury and disease all too common. Up to 70 per cent of rangers surveyed by the WWF have contracted malaria within a 12-month period, and over 40 per cent have received threats from community members. Tragically, a number of rangers pay the ultimate price, as reflected in the Roll of Honour screened during the annual Tusk Conservation Awards.
The Wildlife Ranger Challenge seeks to increase support for the ranger workforce by raising vital funds, which will help to widen access to essential equipment, enhanced training and protective measures. The Challenge also seeks to be a catalyst for the development of the “rangering” profession by increasing recognition for the critical roles rangers play.
Too often, wildlife rangers are deeply misunderstood. However, the rangers that participated in the Wildlife Ranger Challenge half marathon reflected the great diversity within the profession, with many playing wide-ranging roles as conservationists, teachers, community support workers and leaders, contributing not just to protecting wildlife and supporting their immediate communities, but to global UN Sustainable Development Goals.
This year’s race day coincided with the African Ranger Congress taking place in Kasane, Botswana, at which Tusk and its partners, the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa, and NATURAL STATE, brought together delegates to take part in the Challenge. The All-Star team in attendance in Kasane also attempted to set the Fastest Known Time for 21km whilst carrying 22kg. While this record was not set in 2022, the spirit of teamwork engendered by the pan-African team placed the Wildlife Ranger Challenge at a major talking point at Africa’s largest professional gathering of wildlife rangers.
Public participation in the event stretched far and wide, with members of the public from across the globe running in solidarity with the rangers in their home cities. The race was also preceded by a series of mental and physical trials, with a new mini-challenge featuring this year for ranger teams with canine units, in which dogs and handlers demonstrated their tracking skills.
The Wildlife Ranger Challenge has real power to impact change. With matched funding from the Scheinberg Relief Fund and the vital partnership of the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa, Tusk looks forward to seeing this initiative of Africa, for Africa, transform and reach even greater heights.
Find out more and donate to the cause at wildliferangerchallenge.org
George Kamasiai, Anti-Poaching Unit Team Commander, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy: “I was proud to be part of the all-star team representing the Wildlife Ranger Challenge at the African Ranger Congress. My work as a ranger is complex and wide-ranging. While we are often thought of as working solely out in the field, we know how important it is to engage local communities in conservation through development, education and advocacy. It is my hope that the team’s race on 17th September has helped to highlight the critical work of my colleagues across Africa as they stand between wildlife and extinction.”
Bear Grylls, Adventurer and Tusk Ambassador, says: “The times achieved by rangers across Africa were extraordinary, reflecting the exceptional calibre of individuals working across the front lines of Africa’s protected areas. Despite facing enormous challenges, rangers continue to go above and beyond, and could not be more deserving of our support.”
Charlie Mayhew MBE, Chief Executive of Tusk says: “The Wildlife Ranger Challenge brings the vital work of rangers to the fore by providing an opportunity to generate crucial funding for the men and women working on the front line of conservation. The campaign has to date supported over 9,000 rangers across 24 African countries, becoming a springboard from which the entire “rangering” profession can be recognised and developed.”
Mark Scheinberg, Founder of Scheinberg Relief Fund says: “We are proud to support the Wildlife Ranger Challenge in its third year, an important event that highlights the incredible efforts of rangers across Africa and raises vital funds to support their livelihoods, the conservation areas in which they live and the iconic wildlife that they work so hard to protect. It was a personal pleasure to meet dozens of rangers in Kenya last year – truly local heroes. Without their daily dedication, wildlife in the region and across Africa would not survive.”
The full results tables for the 2022 Wildlife Ranger Challenge can be found here.