Across the planet, wildlife rangers are our first line of defence against the very real risk of biodiversity and ecological extinction. The ranger workforce is tasked with the protection of a staggering 30% of the world’s surface and the plethora of life that it supports both directly and indirectly. Considering these immense responsibilities, it is so important that we learn to appreciate the diverse roles and needs of individual units on a global scale.
Looking at the mainstream, surface-level portrayal of a wildlife ranger, it would be easy to forget the work of units in continents such as Asia and South America (amongst many others). We must also keep in mind that the threats to be pushed back against are far more than poaching alone and are often deeply nuanced depending on exact location and circumstances. As much as no two days are the same for a single ranger, no two units will experience identical pressures, cultural circumstances or duties.
Take the Northeastern state of Assam for example. The region has long been notorious for its stunning wildlife and is home to rare and endangered species including the royal Bengal tiger, great Indian one-horned rhinoceros and the golden langur. Over 180 mammal species share Assam with a growing human population. The relation between people and animals, as with many places in which it occurs, must be managed to avoid conflict resulting in death and injury as well as to mitigate against the ever apparent risk of cross-species disease spillover.
Image Credit: Matt Armstrong-Ford
Aaranyak is an NGO forming a cornerstone of conservation efforts across India. In Assam, Aaranyak works on a number of fronts to protect wildlife and human communities alike. Scientific research forms the foundations of a great many of their on the ground strategies and awareness amongst local populations is also a key priority. Manas National Park, in Assam, and the geographical and social factors at play provide valuable insight. Contrary to unique and precious ecology, the forests have been hugely degraded and face persistent and continual threats bourne of prolonged civil unrest. When such habitat is compromised, as is the stability of it’s animal populations. Regional remoteness denies populations of resources and access to higher quality education and job opportunities. Hence, a heavy reliance on exhaustible, fragile forestry resources is formed.
Image Credit: Matt Armstrong Ford
By seeking to understand the conditions which fuel destructive processes (in part or in whole), Aaranyak is able to hone in on root causes and devise tailored projects to preserve and enhance what nature remains. In the Manas Nature Reserve, Assam, this has meant working with local people to drive down dependency on the forests whilst simultaneously building resilience via other economic opportunities and potential livelihoods. This is a long term strategy aimed at building towards a future of far greater harmony between people, animals and their shared environments. Working from a point of intrinsic understanding is a gamechanger. From this point, support can be designed to maximise the impact of rangers working to protect natural life in real-time.
Each wildlife ranger unit will operate in a uniquely challenging environment with a complex set of pressures as well as potential. Resource needs will differ depending on the existing supply capacity, specific regional remoteness and climate as well as the species to be protected and the challenges they face. This applies to all units, on all continents. It’s incredible to think of the sheer number of individuals who dedicate their lives to the profession of being a ranger. To many it is viewed as a calling; an honour to be in a position of guardianship to the planet which ultimately sustains us all. Equally, we must never forget the harrowing fact of rangers whose lives are lost to the cause of natural protection. The Thin Green Line Foundation stated that “159 Rangers lost their lives last year.”. As well as comprehending the nuances of every unit on every continent, we must also remember the separate devastation caused by every death. For many, it is only by zooming in on the exacting environments demanding protection that we can adequately resource it’s most vital defendants - wildlife rangers.
Sockstar has been delighted to provide boots, torches and raincoats to the wildlife rangers of Assam. Whilst committed to maintaining support to each unit within the project, Sockstar is conscious of the global collection of units in diverse and often lesser thought of locations.
Rather than invisible guards of unseen pockets of life, we must strive for universally improved understanding of the impact of wildlife rangers everywhere. As one of the world’s most dangerous and essential professions, every available step must be taken to empower their work and facilitate their successes. After all, a world without wildlife rangers would bear no semblance to conservation and natural life as we know it.