In 30 years of professional conservation, I have been privileged to have worked with countless ranger teams across Africa. I have selected, trained, mentored and labored alongside them and have proudly watched their careers develop.
I have patrolled with them in the fight against poaching and have spent days and nights with them out in the field under tough and rugged conditions. Together, we have been frustrated by poaching gangs for months on end until all of our efforts finally paid off with the arrest of these gangs. These poachers have on occasion, shot at us and we have in turn had to shoot back. I have seen the consequences of these violent encounters on both the poachers and on the psychology of my staff. I have had to casevac rangers when they have been injured and have had to restart their hearts in the confined space of small helicopters rapidly flying towards medical attention. I have also had to watch the life fade from their eyes and then be the first to tell their beloved family members that their father/son/husband would no longer be returning home!
On the other hand, I have also had the incredible privileges of trying to learn their languages and cultures and have spent countless nights around the fire laughing and joking with them. We have spent hours out on patrol tracking rhinos, watching African elephants bathe or enjoying seeing the sun set over the African bushveld when the harshness of the day turns into an awe-inspiring star-filled night.
All of this makes me want to showcase the amazing and very real people that the rangers are, highlighting their joys, their sufferings and sheer commitment to conservation of Africa’s great places and iconic wildlife. Without these conservation heroes on the frontline, there will be no future for our elephants, rhinos and other wildlife!
This 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.