Today, we celebrate the outstanding efforts of park rangers around the globe on the occasion of World Ranger Day. Thanks to their bravery and dedication, nature’s most inspiring places stand a chance in the face of menacing threats, such as illegal poaching or forest clearing.
Recognizing the immense contribution of these individuals, some of whom have lost their lives while on duty, Prince William has joined the celebrations this year through a heartfelt letter to the International Ranger Federation and the Thin Green Line Foundation.
Prince William reminds us of the grim figure of over 1,000 park rangers who have paid the ultimate price while guarding protected areas in the last 10 years. “The staggering sacrifice that you and your colleagues have paid underlines just how dangerous – and how critical – your work is,” he writes.
“You are the frontline, the thin green line of the planet’s critical conservation battle.”
Since last year’s World Ranger Day, 85 deaths among park rangers have been reported and confirmed around the world, but the actual figure is estimated to be two to three times greater if unreported deaths are taken into account.
The Ranger Roll of Honour of the 2013 World Ranger Day lists the names of those brave individuals who lost their lives in the past 12 months, including the elusive “Unknown Ranger” representing all unreported and unconfirmed rangers who died in that time.
The Roll of Honour shows that nearly one in two reported deaths were caused by homicide, with an overwhelming majority (82.5%) of those who were killed coming from African countries. Poaching, illegal logging and mining, armed conflict and drug trafficking are often at the root of such horrific acts.
Park rangers also face environmental hazards, such as bushfires, floods or dangerous animals, considered normal in their line of work.
While protected areas generate better livelihoods through community engagement, job opportunities and skills development, many rangers must cope with threats on a regular basis and take personal risks to carry out their work.
“The world’s protected areas generate economic. cultural and spiritual benefits that are an investment in all of our lives.” said Trevor Sandwith, Director of IUCN’s Global Protected Area Programme. “We have to work harder to ensure that the world respects and values those dedicated men and women, communities and peoples who maintain these world’s most precious places”.
The International Ranger Federation and The Thin Green Line Foundation work together to highlight this situation. Through training, capacity building and exchange programmes, they help park rangers to be well trained and properly equipped to manage the world’s protected areas. They also provide support to the families of rangers that have died in service.