It’s well established that being a ranger comes with more-than-average occupational hazards and less-than-average payback for the job of work, despite rangers being held in high regard by their local communities.
The men and women working as rangers are exposed to extreme environmental factors, including treacherous weather and terrain, as well as dangerous animals and plants that one can encounter in the African bush. Animals both big and small can cause a threat to life, large powerful machinery can cause injury, and of course, there are armed poaching gangs and livestock rustlers.
Worse, facing these occupational hazards is not always made easier by being well-paid, well-equipped or at the very least, appreciated. A 2019 report by WWF, ‘Life on the frontline: a global survey of the working conditions of rangers’, states: 'the single most obvious thread that runs through the survey completed by patrol rangers at nearly 500 sites in 28 countries is that rangers are facing excessive safety and health risks that could be significantly reduced with the appropriate interventions’.
Interventions that ForRangers has been making since we began in 2015; by donating funds for projects to improve and support rangers’ lives.
Providing life insurance
The report also states: ‘it is alarming that a considerable majority of rangers have no insurance coverage for either serious injury or on-the-job death. This not only puts rangers at considerable risk but their families as well. Given the inherent danger of ranger work, anything less than full coverage should be deemed a major failure on the part of government employers’.
According to The Thin Green Line Foundation, more than 100 rangers lose their lives each year. These tragic losses can be at the hands of poachers, militia and other assailants; due to encounters with the very animals they protect; because of diseases such as malaria, Covid-19 and other illnesses encountered while at work; and also due to accidents associated with the dangerous nature of their work. The loss of these incredible men and women is not only heartbreaking for their families it can also cause add huge financial pressures.
We recognise that rangers are often the main, or only, breadwinners in their families. If they're unable to work due to injury, or worse, their loss will not only leave a large personal hole but also a financial one.
Since 2018, we've funded a group life insurance policy which now, we're very proud to share, extends to more than 3,000 rangers working in 62 protected areas across 11 African countries. Covering the costs of this insurance has only been made possible thanks to your donations, particularly your support for the Gaucho Derby we took part in earlier this year. Thank you so much!
How this insurance is making a difference
Since March 2020, there have been 17 claims on the policy, four of which were, sadly, because rangers died.
One of these people was award-winning ranger Solomon Chidunuka, the Senior Wildlife Warden of Mpika District in North Luangwa Conservation Programme, Zambia, who passed away in February 2021.
Solomon began his wildlife protection career in 1989, and in his 30-year career, he showed his dedication to fieldwork, rising through the ranks. He gained and maintained the respect of his colleagues, tourism operators, communities, and conservation NGOs. He was considered by many to be one of the strongest wardens in Zambia.
Whilst nothing can make up for their painful loss the policy has at least been able to ensure that Solomon's wife, Rachel, and their children, are supported.