Unsung heroes

Statement by IUCN Director General Inger Andersen on World Ranger Day 2015

Max Jenes and colleagues

Today, we take our hats off to the many rangers around the world who risk their lives to protect our planet’s most precious natural areas. We take our hats off to the unsung heroes of conservation.

Last year saw an unprecedented increase in the threats and challenges that these people face. Poaching, illegal logging and mining, armed conflict, drug trafficking, as well as environmental hazards such as bushfires and floods are just some of them. The list is long and it continues to grow.

In the face of these challenges, many rangers and their families have made the ultimate sacrifice fulfilling their duties.

The Ranger Roll of Honour of the International Ranger Federation lists those who have lost their lives in the past 12 months. This year, the list includes 52 names. Over the last 10 years, more than 1,000 rangers have been killed worldwide and many more injured. As many deaths go unreported, the real number of rangers killed in the line of duty worldwide is probably much higher.

Few occupations deserve more respect and recognition and yet remain virtually unnoticed. We solemnly acknowledge and thank them for their incredible dedication.

The Protected Planet Report published in November 2014 by IUCN and UNEP shows that, despite the many challenges, the world’s protected area estate continues to expand: 15.4% of terrestrial areas and 3.4% of oceans are now protected. These exceptional places are all managed by skilled rangers from Indigenous Peoples, local communities, private organisations, as well as those working in conservation agencies.

It is thanks to their ongoing work, in every country of the world, on both land and sea, that these precious places are being preserved. It is thanks to their work that the global community can continue its efforts to conserve the species and ecosystems that sustain us all.

These defenders of nature not only carry the responsibility to withstand the growing pressures faced by the places they protect; they must also strive for their lives and work to be valued, and for their safety to be assured. Many of them are unpaid and unrecognised, but are continuing to apply their knowledge, skills and commitment for the benefit of all.

At IUCN we are committed to ensuring that rangers receive the recognition that they deserve, and the support they so desperately need.

The recently launched IUCN Green List of Protected Areas, for instance, aims to recognise the excellent work achieved around the world by rangers who ensure that protected and conserved areas not only conserve biodiversity and cultural resources, but also improve the livelihoods of those most in need.

While continuing to value and recognise rangers’ efforts to protect our planet, IUCN is also working to address the growing challenges that they face, such as poaching and illegal development. We aim to tackle these challenges at every possible level, starting with addressing their social and economic drivers and ultimately reducing the personal risks that rangers face in their everyday work.

As we celebrate World Ranger Day today, let’s remember that the future of our common, natural heritage is in the hands of these extraordinary men and women. It is our duty to secure a safe and prosperous future for them in return.

Work area: 
Protected Areas
Protected Areas
World Heritage
South-Eastern Europe 
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