With the ever-mounting impact of poaching that is taking place within our protected areas, Africa’s rangers are facing increased risks of having to place their lives on the line. Contacts with well-armed poachers are on the increase and the rangers now have to deal with guerrilla warfare type situations to combat these incursions. This is having a cumulatively negative impact on the ranger’s wellbeing with rising incidences of post-traumatic stress disorder and burnout fatigue taking place.
The Game Rangers Association of Africa and the Kruger National Park have recognized that this is a priority area needing addressing and have developed a carefully thought through “Ranger Wellbeing Program” that includes psychological support. This is certainly having a positive impact in support of rangers and more organizations need to implement similar programs.
In addition to providing post-incident psychological debriefings, post-traumatic stress disorder and burnout can also be reduced through careful initial selection of individuals applying to become a ranger and through ensuring that rangers are well trained and well prepared for the situations that they are likely to face. Proper operational briefings and planning prior to deployment into the field is necessary as is sound in-field leadership during contacts with armed poaching gangs. Post-deployment briefings must take place and where necessary strong legal support must be provided to rangers involved in a shooting incident. Finally rangers need the time to be able to relax away from their work situations through having good rest, the ability to play sport and through getting support and understanding from their families.
Africa’s rangers are playing a critical role in conservation at the frontline of the poaching war and need our upmost support!
This conservation photography project is carried out in partnership with the Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA) that provides support, networks and representation for game rangers across Africa. This conservation photography project will use rangers as the “lead characters” to highlight the issues faced by conservationists and showcase opportunities for improved support of rangers in the future. Positive and targeted messages will be communicated that emphasise the critical role that rangers play in African conservation in ensuring that the continent’s natural heritage is preserved for the benefit of future generations. Support Africa’s Rangers by supporting the GRAA.
Peter Chadwick is a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) whose mission is to further environmental and cultural conservation through photography. The iLCP’s goal is to use the art of high-quality photography to encourage people to take action in support of tangible and meaningful conservation measures.
Visit African Conservation Photography for a full gallery of Ranger images.