By David Moore. “The World Ranger Day event at Khao Yai sets an example for the rest of the world,’ said Sean Wilson, President, International Ranger Federation.
On 27th July, I had the opportunity to attend the World Ranger Day celebrations at Khao Yai National Park with my colleagues from IUCN Thailand. Under the watchful eye of the local gibbons, over 1,000 park rangers from around Thailand gathered for the 3rd annual celebration to recognise the significant commitment made by rangers around Thailand during the course of their work protecting our natural heritage. Hosted by the Thai Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, the World Ranger Day ceremony was supported by IUCN Members Freeland Foundation, the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation and Thai Rak Pa, WWF, WCS, TV Burapha, and IUCN.
The key purpose of World Ranger Day is to develop a strong community amongst rangers, and to promote community awareness of the contributions and sacrifice made by park rangers to protect natural heritage for the benefit of all. In Thailand, a breakthrough event in the past year for rangers has been exposure through mass media via the TV Burapha production, Khon Khon Khon, which follows the patrols of park rangers, bringing their important role to the attention of the broader public. Through this programme TV Burapha has also implemented a fundraising initiative to support park rangers throughout Thailand.
In order to understand the importance of World Ranger Day and increased public awareness of the role of park rangers, we interviewed two participants in the World Ranger Day celebrations, Ms Wiraya Ochakun, Superintendent of Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in the Western Forest Complex World Heritage Area, and Mr Surat Monyuphanao, Ranger at Thap Lan National Park in the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai World Heritage Site.
Ms Wiraya Ochakun, Superintendent of Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, Western Forest Complex
What are the main challenges that you face at Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary?
The most important challenge, which is ongoing, is the destruction of natural resources in the buffer zones, especially along the Thai-Myanmar border. These areas are not directly my responsibility, and must be managed in conjunction with other agencies such as the Thai army and the border police.
Have there been any changes to the Western Forest Complex World Heritage Site through attempts to support rangers such as World Ranger Day?
There are two main benefits from World Ranger Day. The first is for the rangers themselves, making them proud of themselves. This makes it easier for me as a leader to manage and inspire rangers, to convince them to work harder and more effectively to protect the natural environment. Better public understanding also makes it easier to get public commitment and to feel that the public are more aware of what rangers do.
Through your work do you feel you have inspired other women to work in similar roles?
I have had a positive response and feedback from my female colleagues who have said they would like to work like me, so perhaps there has been some inspiration. I have heard that there are some women who want to take the forest ranger training. There are some limitations, most importantly through acceptance by colleagues, men and other parts of society relating to the role of women in natural resource management.
Mr Surat Monyuphanao, Ranger at Thap Lan National Park
How long have you worked as a ranger?
What are the main challenges you face working as a ranger?
The most important challenge is ensure that we have food and drink for patrols, and getting necessary things for conducting patrols in the forest. If possible more support from the outsiders in civil society is required to support the provision of these things.
Has there been any noticeable positive change associated with attempts to increase the profile of rangers?
After the awareness campaign about World Ranger Day, I think there are many people interested in what we do. Now people know what we do in the forest, I am sure more people will be involved in this awareness raising.
Have you seen any of the recent TV Burapha production on the work of rangers?
I was involved in taking the production team out into the forest in Thap Lan National Park.
You must be very proud of this opportunity?
I am very proud and feel that my work is important. It is very important that the mass media are supporting and promoting the work of forest rangers to the community in this way.
These interviews demonstrate how creating a strong sense of community among rangers and ensuring that rangers’ work is recognized and valued by society, through initiatives such as the World Ranger Day celebration and Khon Khon Khon, are critical for developing the motivation and status of rangers. However, meeting the basic needs of rangers to perform their tasks is still a challenge, and the resources provided by civil society and fundraising programmes such as that run by TV Burapha, are critical for ensuring that rangers can do their jobs.
Sean Wilmore, the President of the International Ranger Federation and Chairman of the Thin Green Line Foundation, which provides support to families of rangers killed in the line of duty, was optimistic about the potential for Thailand to progress even further and establish a Thai Ranger Association to motivate, unite, train and provide support for all park rangers in Thailand. At a forum held in the afternoon, the Thai rangers unanimously expressed their support for this idea.
On my way home from the event, someone on the street in Bangkok saw the Khon Khon Khon logo on my shirt, and asked: “Pen phu pitak phaa mai?” (Are you a forest ranger?). To me, this indicates that the publicity is working.