Rhinos are a keystone species: mega-herbivores that help shape entire ecosystems on which many other species rely. But they are once again being poached to the brink of extinction for their horns.
IMPORTANCE OF RHINOS
"Rhinos have been around for millions of years and play a crucial role in their ecosystem. They’re important grazers, consuming large amounts of vegetation, which helps shape the African landscape. This benefits other animals and keeps a healthy balance within the ecosystem.
"As one of Africa’s ‘big five’, rhinos are a popular sight for tourists. Ecotourism can be an important source of income for local people.
"By helping protect rhinos, we’re helping to conserve their habitat for the benefit of people and wildlife, helping support local communities and making sure natural resources are available for generations to come." ~WWF
THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION
African rhino populations were taken to the brink of extinction in the early 80s, and after some decades of recovery they're populations have once again been under attack.
The latest poaching crisis began around 2007 with the increase in demand for their horn in China and Southeast Asia. At the height of the crisis, rhinos were being poached at up to 3 per day. In the last 10 years, Kruger National Park has lost 70% of their rhino population. Worldwide, rhino numbers have dipped below 27,000.
Rhinos are still being poached at an average of more than 1 per day. Once again, poaching appears to be on the rise. In the first 92 days of 2022 there have been 75 poached rhinos in the KwaZulu-Natal province alone. There are still serious threats to all 5 species of rhino, and the efforts to save them must continue.
Rangers are the final line of defense for rhinos and other endangered species around the world. They are protectors of biodiversity and advocates for conservation. But they are lacking in the support needed to do this invaluable work.
IMPORTANCE OF RANGERS
"Rangers, forest guards, wildlife officers… They serve under various titles and their work is vast, yet one thread unites them: They all work to protect the natural world. Conservation couldn’t happen without them.
"The term “ranger” refers to any professional involved in the protection and management of national parks, natural areas, wildlife and cultural sites. They patrol protected areas, monitor wildlife, prevent poaching, engage local communities in conservation, help communities resolve human-wildlife conflicts, and assist with tourism.
"Ranger work is often grueling. These men and women remain in remote field locations for long stretches of time, separated from home and family for weeks or even months. Rangers may work in an official capacity or as a concerned community member and may be paid or volunteer." ~WWF
IN NEED OF SUPPORT
"Ranger salaries are typically low, and teams often lack the necessary equipment, training, or working conditions required on the job. Around the world, governments often lack resources to fully equip, train, and support rangers.
"Ranger work is also dangerous. Watching over some of the world’s most endangered and highly trafficked animals—including elephants, tigers, and rhinos—puts rangers’ lives at risk from armed and violent poachers."~WWF
Rangers deserve appropriate and reliable working conditions, the training and standards awarded to other frontline professionals, adequate pay and benefits, government support and accountability, recognition by the International Labor Organization as an occupation, and to be treated like the heroes of the planet they are.
A list of resources for further learning about the importance of rangers, their challenges, and the work that needs to be done to support them.
Ranger Animated Series
A beautiful 5 part animated series that brings home the reasons why rangers are important, and the many roles they play in conservation and beyond. Created for URSA in partnership with Re:wild. Featuring Edward Norton's voice.
Life on the Frontline: 2019 Survey
Life on the Frontline 2019 is a global survey of the working conditions of rangers, completed by WWF and partners. "A wide diversity of topics were addressed across the 197 questions contained in each survey, an analysis of results points towards certain themes that require urgent action from the governments that employ these rangers..." ~WWF
URSA Action Plan
The Universal Rangers Support Alliance's Action Plan outlines five themes, allowing rangers to perform their roles effectively and responsibly. It supports the implementation of the International Ranger Federation's Chitwan Declaration and furthers the professionalization of rangers (2021-2025).
A list of resources for further learning about the importance of rhinos, the poaching crisis, and organizations making a difference.