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Background notes 3g

3g Risking their lives

Mountian gorillaElephant

The critically endangered
mountain gorilla, and
the vulnerable African
elephant (Photographs
by Steve Johnson)

The job of a park ranger is getting more and more dangerous. All over the world, people working in parks face increasing assaults and physical violence from people poaching native animals. Many rangers are killed trying to protect the animals living within their park.

A recent survey of rangers in 17 countries reported that 31 rangers were killed and 32 were injured through violence while on duty in the last five years. The actual figure is certainly much higher.

War zones pose the greatest great danger for rangers. Armed soldiers often poach game for food or to finance their military activities. In one horrifying event, 10 rangers were kidnapped and seven murdered by rebels in Uganda’s Murchinson National Park.

John Makombo, Chief Ranger in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, has been shot at several times by poachers. Bwindi is home to 350 of the world’s remaining 600 mountain gorillas.

Dharanidhar Boro, ranger in India’s Kaziranga National Park, was recently forced to use the gun he carries for self-defence when a group of poachers shot at him. Two of the men – hunting the endangered one-horned rhinoceros – were killed.

Though rangers in countries involved inareas of conflict are the most common targets, First World countries also have trouble protecting their rangers. Attacks and threats to rangers in the US increased from 10 cases to 104 between 1998 and 2002.

International Ranger Federation logo

The International Ranger Federation (IRF) represents Ranger Associations across the world. The IRF and the IUCN – The World Conservation Union – have together started a ‘Protect the Protectors’ program to shield park rangers from ever-increasing violence. The program was launched at the fourth World Ranger Congress held in Australia in March, 2003.

At the fifth World Parks Congress in September 2003 in Durban, John Makombo accepted the Fred Packard Award for service on behalf of all rangers who have given their lives in the course of protecting parks and wildlife.

The IUCN World Parks Congress, held every 10 years, is the major global forum for people working in protected areas.

Going further

See the movie, The Thin Green Line, a front line story of Rangers fighting to save what is precious and rare around the world.

Activity 3.11 - A global picture - parks in perspective