“For Rangers is aiming to raise funds and awareness to ensure that rangers across Africa are adequately equipped with top-quality basic equipment, well paid, incentivized and trained.”
The recent demand for rhino horn and the resulting resurgence in poaching has reached catastrophic levels. The epidemic levels rhino poaching in Africa has been well documented, with well over 100 rhino killed each year. The situation is even direr for elephant, with some estimates suggesting that 100 elephants a day are being killed across Africa.
The market price of rhino horn now rivals gold for value (approximately $65,000 -$75,000 a kilo), and it is estimated that the trade in illegal wildlife products is worth over $17 billion a year. In the Far East, rhino horn is sold in Vietnam and China, and to a lesser extent Laos, as traditional medicine. Despite having been scientifically proven to have no medicinal properties whatsoever (rhino horn is comprised of keratin – the same substance as one's fingernails and hair), it continues to be in high demand with the wealthy elite – perhaps as much as a status symbol as the aphrodisiac or cure for cancer that it is purported to be. With a price per kilo of over $1,200 for ivory in the Far East, elephants too are victims of this senseless slaughter. At this rate of loss, it is estimated that by 2026 there will be no rhino left in the wild. Their Ivory Used for ornaments, the decimation of elephants is continent-wide, and we are facing the extinction of these species within a generation.
"Over a thousand rangers have been killed in the line of duty since 2003."
As a result of these inflated prices, the poachers have become ever more determined and motivated, using high caliber assault weapons and sophisticated night-vision to operate at night. The poachers in Africa come from an underworld of illegal gunrunners, involved in all facets of gun-crimes in the country, including human trafficking and drugs. It has even been suggested in the global media that there are links between revenue from poaching and terrorism organizations.
Protecting rhino and elephant requires large numbers of highly trained and dedicated rangers to protect wildlife against this onslaught. The monitoring of rhino involves skilled tracking and perseverance in thick bush. Long hours are spent amongst elephant, lion, buffalo and other dangerous animals in the pursuit of identifying and establishing the daily whereabouts, behaviour and health of each individual rhino. The anti-poaching security team operates almost exclusively at night, in response to current trends of poachers. These men are on the front line and protecting these animals against heavily armed and ruthless gangs, as well as working in harsh, cold and uncomfortable conditions. Globally, over a thousand rangers have been killed in the line of duty since 2003.
It is dangerous, tough and thankless work, and if we are to keep rhino and elephant from extinction, there is a huge need to keep our men safe and motivated, both for their welfare and for the welfare of the iconic species they risk their lives to protect. To do this the equipment, training and resources provided to them is paramount, not only to their own safety and their ability to protect wildlife, but also towards the self-worth and loyalty they feel towards the difficult task they are faced with.