Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When I grow up I want to be an Anti-Poaching Ranger

Poaching threatens many of species of animals such as tigers, apes, rhinos and elephants in various countries throughout Africa and Asia. Animals are caught and killed for meat or for their body parts to be used for medicinal purposes which have no scientific support of being effective. In the battle against poaching many places have employed rangers to police these areas. Is there are more honourable job? These rangers are on the ground directly battling underground industries that have no regard for endangered animals survival.
Only days ago a ranger in Lobéké National Park, Cameroon was shot when he confronted a gang of poachers who had returned to collect gorillas they had shot with the intention of selling them as bushmeat. If the gorillas had been sold they would have collected a maximum of $200. Zomedel Pierre Achille was shot in the back and chest and leaves behind a wife and five children.

Poaching has been on the increase in Cameron as the penalties for trafficking A-class species such as chimpanzees, gorillas and elephants has been reduced recently. Poachers that are caught usually serve a term of only two to three months. The poachers are part of an organised crime group and utilise the knowledge of the local pygmy people who live sustainably in the forest but are bribed with whisky.

Lobéké National Park covers an area of 217,000 hectares and is currently patrolled by 22 rangers or "ecoguards". However the poachers are well armed with AK47s which can be obtained for about $100 or even a bag of cocoa. When Zomedel was shot, he and his partner Jean Fils Mamendji were up against about six men. Jean managed to escape with wounds to his arm.

Hostilities with poachers is not uncommon. On the 21st September, three rhino poachers were killed and another two arrested in a shoot off with park rangers. A 306 rifle fitted with a silencer, 18 rounds of ammunition, two knives and two bags were among the items recovered by the well prepared rangers. Had these poachers been successful they could have got around $10,000 a kilo for rhino horns.

In Asia the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is partnering with local governments to increase the amount of ecoguards on the ground. Last year they identified 42 locations where tiger protection is vital. About half these areas now have ecoguards covering regions through India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. In Indonesia alone, at least 12 tigers have been saved over the past 12 months through the increased patrolling and intelligence gathering provided by these tiger guardians. This is substantial considering only about 500 tigers remain in Indonesia.

As time goes on poachers are becoming more skilled and knowledgeable and the demand for animal parts is not alleviating. Conservationists are working with governments and policy makers to increase penalties for poaching and tackling local's attitudes towards animal parts for medicines. Meanwhile it is imperative that we support these soldiers on the ground protecting the animals we value so much. They need to always have the best training and technology to ensure every animal under their protection is safe, and be able return home to their families at night. To find out how you can support anti-poaching measures, click here.


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