WWF’s new survey also found 86 per cent of rangers thought poachers make their job dangerous, as the International Ranger Federation & Thin Green Line Foundation reveal 107 rangers have died in the last 12 months
* On World Ranger Day, WWF calls for action to tackle the increasing death toll, poor medical treatment and lack of insurance for wildlife rangers
New results released by WWF to mark World Ranger Day, reveal that one in seven wildlife rangers surveyed across Asia and Central Africa have been seriously injured at work within the last 12 months. The results, part of the largest ever survey looking at conditions for rangers and their welfare, come as the official death toll between July 2017 and June 2018 has been confirmed by the International Ranger Federation (IRF) & Thin Green Line Foundation (TGLF) as 107 – up from 101 last year.
This brings the total number of reported rangers who have lost their lives in the line of duty to 871* since 2009. However, experts believe the actual number of deaths to be much higher than the reported number.
Rohit Singh WWF’s Zero Poaching Lead & President Ranger Federation of Asia said:
“The World over, we’re facing a rapid decline in nature including some of our most beloved species. Rangers are at the forefront of wildlife protection, but shockingly despite their willingness to face life-threatening situations to protect wildlife, few are receiving fair pay, insurance and adequate training.
“Clearly more needs to be done to protect both wildlife and rangers from poachers. There’s the opportunity for global leaders to commit to tackling this at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in October. Countries where poaching occurs must ensure they have adequate numbers of properly equipped, trained and insured rangers.”
An overwhelming majority (86 per cent) of rangers think their job is dangerous due to the grave risks associated with encountering or confronting poachers. Recent tragic incidents show that these concerns are not unfounded.
According to the International Ranger Federation 48 rangers of the 107 lost this year were murdered at their place of work whilst protecting wildlife, while another 50 died in workplace accidents due to the dangerous nature of the job.
This year saw the murder of, Rachel Katumwa, the first female ranger thought to be killed whilst on duty in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Just a month prior to Rachel’s murder in the same area, suspected members of an armed militia group that were involved in poaching activity gunned down five wildlife rangers and their driver. It was the worst attack in the history of Virunga National Park and the latest in a long line of tragic incidents in which rangers have lost their lives defending the planet’s natural heritage.
WWF’s survey, which will be published in full later this year, has been completed by rangers working in Asia and Central Africa. WWF is also currently conducting the survey in East Africa. These regions are renowned as the most dangerous for the profession due to high levels of poaching to feed the demand for illegal wildlife trade products, largely coming from China and neighbouring countries.
Despite high risks from armed poachers, dangerous encounters with wildlife and exposure to infectious diseases like malaria, only 15 per cent of the rangers surveyed had been trained in first aid within the last year and almost six out of ten (58 per cent) felt that when most in need of medical treatment, the services they received were not sufficient.
In Asia, on average a ranger gets paid USD 292 per month, and in Central Africa USD 150 per month– most often this is the main, or only, source of income for their families. The survey also highlights the concerning lack of insurance for rangers and their dependents. Despite life-changing injuries and death being commonplace within the profession, just 36 per cent indicated that they had insurance coverage for such situations. Should rangers become injured and are no longer able to work – or worse yet are killed – in the line of duty, their entire family are left vulnerable to a life of poverty.
WWF is calling upon governments to urgently review and improve shortcomings that are endangering the lives of wildlife rangers. Adequate training – including widely adopted first aid training for rangers – strong emergency medical treatment plans, as well as equipment and communications devices appropriate for field conditions should be among the matters most urgently needing a review. Additionally, 100% insurance coverage for serious injuries and loss of life is a critical next step for rangers and their families.