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Safety and wellbeing for rangers

As we mark World Ranger Day 2021 on Saturday 31 July, WWF South Africa celebrates the many rangers who are working hard to conserve our protected area

Perhaps the greatest threat to ranger safety and wellbeing lies outside the protected area. Illegal wildlife trade, driven by criminal syndicates, undermines the work of rangers and impacts on their ability to effectively manage and conserve biodiversity.

Criminal syndicates often operate in communities where rangers and their families live. These criminal syndicates target rangers and their families through intimidation, coercion, physical harm and even death threats. In addition, the anti-poaching response to relentless illegal incursions into protected areas exacts a heavy physical and emotional toll.

In the course of their work, many rangers also spend long periods of time away from their loved ones and, like many in South Africa, feel the pressure of having to provide for their families.

In the light of this, building ranger resilience is more important than ever. It is an all-encompassing mission that should respond to the emotional, financial, mental and physical pressures of the job. This can be achieved by providing psychological support, ensuring physical health and safety, building integrity, rewarding exceptional performance, supporting ongoing professional development, and improving skills in financial management and leadership.

Through international initiatives such as the Universal Ranger Support Alliance (URSA), WWF reaffirms its commitment toward supporting vital reforms and professionalisation of the global ranger workforce, including critical interventions in ranger advocacy and representation, community-ranger relations, equality and equity in the ranger workforce.
Over the next few months, WWF South Africa’s Khetha programme, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and in partnership with the Southern Africa Wildlife College (SAWC), will train 50 rangers from across the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA) in the newly accredited Braveheart Ranger Leadership Curriculum.
The Braveheart short-course focusses on building the capacity of rangers in leadership, conservation and law enforcement ethics, community engagement, technology, communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution, corruption mitigation and integrity building, all skills that will strengthen the role rangers play towards finding holistic and long-term solutions to address illegal wildlife trade in the GLTFCA.

Craig Hay, Southern African Wildlife Trafficking Hub Lead, WWF South Africa, says: “The burden rangers face frequently goes unrecognised, and the holistic set of competencies they require to respond to these challenges goes far beyond the traditional ranger training curricula. The Braveheart Ranger Leadership Curriculum is a significant step towards changing this. The aim is to capacitate the current and emerging generation of rangers with leadership and soft skills they need to respond to the significant challenges they face in fulfilling their crucial role in conserving our natural resources.”
The Braveheart curriculum is aimed at equipping rangers with a broad-range of skills to help them cope with the pressures of the job.

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