A South West charity is marking World Ranger Day on Wednesday 31st July by highlighting the work of its conservation patrols – and by paying tribute to a ranger recently killed in the line of duty.
Wild Planet Trust, the charity that runs Paignton Zoo, Living Coasts in Torquay and Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, helps fund forest patrols in the highlands of Tanzania and in the Omo Forest Reserve in South West Nigeria. The patrols guard against poachers, illegal land clearance and other threats to wildlife.
Each year, World Ranger Day honours rangers killed or injured in the line of duty and celebrates the critical work they do to protect the world’s natural treasures. Wild Planet Trust spokesperson Phil Knowling: “This year we are remembering a ranger on a patrol funded by the Trust in Tanzania who was killed by a poacher in May.”
The 28-year-old man was a wildlife warden at Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority. He was shot dead by a poacher during a joint law enforcement patrol with Tanzania Forest Services Agency in Uzungwa Scarp Nature Forest Reserve.
Andrew Bowkett, Wild Planet Trust’s Conservation Programmes Manager, said: “He was seriously injured and died while being rushed to hospital on Monday 27th May. Our thoughts are with his wife and child.” A police investigation is underway.
Meanwhile in Nigeria, community guards trained and equipped with help from Wild Planet Trust are making a difference in their home area. The Omo Forest is an area of natural forest where elusive forest elephants and chimpanzees live. A recent patrol of local guards, supported by rangers from the Ogun State Forestry Department, discovered an illegal temporary settlement and new farms near Erin Camp, which is the project’s field station in the forest. Although no arrests were made during the operation, several guns and cutlasses were confiscated.
Andrew Bowkett again: “These snapshots show how important it is for us to support local people working to protect the wildlife around them. It’s great that zoos in England can raise money to help tackle real-life conservation issues in countries overseas. We turn leisure spend into genuine, effective conservation. That people can lose their lives carrying out this vital work shows what a desperate struggle it really is.”
Wild Planet Trust works with the Southern Tanzania Elephant Program, Tanzania Forest Services Agency, Italy’s MUSE – Science Museum and Bristol Zoological Society in Tanzania; and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation and Ogun State Forestry Department in Nigeria, with the support of The Elephant Crisis Fund, an initiative launched by Save the Elephants and the Wildlife Conservation Network, in partnership with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.