hedonist said:While great news, the cartoon is so sad, as is that little elephant's face on the left.
While great news, the cartoon is so sad, as is that little elephant's face on the left.
World Ranger Day is an opportunity to sing the praises of
the frontline defenders of our wild places. Men and women who lay their
lives on the line daily to protect and preserve – and who, sadly and
more frequently, do in fact lose their lives.
The International Ranger Federation, with the IUCN,
define a ranger as “the person involved in the practical protection and
preservation of all aspects of wild areas, historical and cultural
sites … providing links between local communities, protected areas and
According to the IRF, 740 rangers died
in the line of duty between 2009 and 2017 with the largest numbers of
those being rangers in Asia and Africa. And according to the
organization Global Witness,
98 “environmental defenders” have already died in first six months of
2017 – simply doing their jobs. Earlier this month, five rangers in the
Democratic Republic of Congo were killed while on a mission to rescue
three of their colleagues and some journalists who had gone missing on
So who are these people, and why do they so
bravely risk their lives, often for little reward, to protect and
conserve our planet’s wild things and wild places?
Meet Raphael Chiwindo an investigations and intelligence
operator and Assistant Project Manager of IFAW’s anti-poaching
initiative in Kasungu National Park, Malawi.
Raphael, or “Raph” as he is popularly known, first started
working for IFAW nearly 20 years ago. He has spent his life selflessly
protecting Malawi’s wildlife from cruel and senseless poaching and
illegal trade activity. His career with IFAW first started in 1998 after
Mike Labuschagne, IFAW Law Enforcement Technical Director, noticed his
potential during a ranger training course.
Raph excelled through all training and quickly climbed
ranks, being promoted to a qualified instructor and captain of a
commando unit. IFAW works in Southern Africa to prevent the
unpredictable, yet constant threat of poaching in places like Malawi and
Zambia. Raph has remained part of the team for nearly 20 years and is
now second in rank in leading one of Malawi’s most successful
Raph says his duty to protect comes down to his commitment to conservation in an area largely forgotten by others.
“Malawi has beautiful wildlife that I feel is overlooked
by the world, and it needs organisations like IFAW that see the
importance of conserving and protecting the landscape. There are few
people in the word who care about wildlife, I want to be one of the few
who do,” says Raph.
IFAW is committed to bringing an end to the cruel and
senseless poaching that is rampant throughout the Zambia-Malawi
Landscape. A grueling and difficult mission, but one made a little
easier by having dedicated people like Raph on our team.
On World Ranger Day, IFAW would like to send our
appreciation to all the rangers and environmental defenders. Thank you
for all that you do.
As I write this, I am on an aircraft surrounded by
disaster response teams. Police officers, Forest Service officers, rapid
response medical teams – all of us were on the islands of St. John and
St. Thomas doing what we could to help those communities (and in our
case, their animals) recover from the destruction left behind by
Hurricane Irma. Now we are leaving, en route to the continental US
through San Juan to wait out the next storm before we can return to
continue our work.
The mood on the plane is somber. Many of us were torn when
we were given the order to evacuate. Hurricane Maria is bearing down on
the Caribbean, and will slash through these islands in a day or so
impacting already weakened infrastructures and tattered homes.
Our teams of IFAW responders on the US Virgin Islands of
St. John and St. Thomas had just started our assessments for
post-disaster needs of owned and unowned community animals before
receiving evacuation orders.
The people we met there are doing all they can to care for
their animals. Before we arrived, however supplies were running low.
Animal food for large and small community animals was being rationed and
caregivers were anxious about securing meals for the animals in their
care. Luckily we were able to deliver 2,000 pounds of dog food to St.
John donated by PetSmart Charities and Royal Canin through
GreaterGood.org, with more supplies on their way.
Ryan Moore, the shelter manager at the St. John Animal
Care Center, has worked tirelessly to ensure that the dogs and cats
under his care are receiving the food, water, and love that they need
during this intense and stressful time. The cats and dogs we met there
are incredibly sweet. Zuma, Dallas, LuAnn and so many others met our
team with unconditional love and affection.
Ryan manages a dedicated team of volunteers who ensure
that all of the dog and cat kennels are clean, that cats get the
socializing they need, and each dog is walked at least twice a day. When
we have heard so much about the looting and violence in Irma’s wake,
the dedication shown by Ryan and his team of staff and volunteers to
these helpless animals restores my faith in humanity.
We also met Dana Bartlett who has adopted so many of St.
John’s iconic white donkeys. Thankfully her donkeys, and all the wild
donkeys we met along the way, are faring very well. Dana has secured hay
for her herd, and we witnessed wild donkeys foraging through the plants
that have survived the storm. Her chickens, however lost their home
when it was flattened by the hurricane. She is scrambling to provide
shelter for them as Maria barrels down.
At the Humane Society of St. Thomas we also saw incredible
dedication to their community and the animals in their care. While the
shelter on St. Thomas fared well structurally throughout Irma, shelter
staff and volunteers literally lost everything to the hurricane --
houses, vehicles, businesses -- but thankfully they never lost hope.
Each day people from the island arrived to provide daily care for
animals; food, water and lots of emotional support. It seemed to me that
helping the animals of St. Thomas was therapy, a way of giving back
when they themselves had lost so much.
Thankfully the IFAW team on Antigua and Barbuda
have completed their assessment of the needs for wildlife and community
animals on those islands, and have been evacuated safely.
IFAW Disaster Response teams are eager to remobilize once
Maria passes through the region. The absolute devastation caused by
being hit by storm after storm means these communities and their animals
need our help more than ever. We will keep you updated on our
continuing work in the region. Please check back here for more