SHARE
Field rangers work as a team and sometimes as a family, but it takes individual resolve to resume the daily challenges of patrolling and defending the park.  

Field rangers work as a team and sometimes as a family, but it takes individual resolve to resume the daily challenges of patrolling and defending the park.

 

Conservation Heroes II — The Ranger Corps

The ranger corps forms the load bearing frontline that work tirelessly to resist the surge of poacher activity within the borders of the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Section ranger - Anti-poaching efforts count very high amongst a long list of responsibilities. Rangers are also responsible for the follow-up of such incursions and the subsequent apprehension of suspects.

Section ranger - Anti-poaching efforts count very high amongst a long list of responsibilities. Rangers are also responsible for the follow-up of such incursions and the subsequent apprehension of suspects.

There’s a quiet, steely and highly focused resolve, a brand of acute determination that is at once thrilling and calming. Perhaps it is the look in their eyes, or the weapons they wield. It might very well be their peak mental and physical condition.

“Fourteen days. That is the length of time a special ranger can be deployed in the bush. With ad-hoc support to refuel rations and water, special rangers are routinely deployed for three, five or seven days depending on the mission criteria”

Judicious use of supplies may extend a set of rations for up to two days. Hydration, however, remains a challenge, particularly in the harsh lowveld environment where summer temperatures average 32°C peaking at 40°C.

Constantly on the move, exposed to fierce predators, other wild animals and the risk of contact situations with poachers, the special ranger is a one-of-a-kind operational resource. They possess a level of compassion and an understanding of the human condition that may seem out of place in these circumstances. 

Elsewhere in the bush, day or night and often both, other rangers and their K-9 units scour the bush, tracking spoor and operating on incursion reports and various other forms of intelligence. The scenarios they engage are highly unpredictable and often volatile. Their objective is simple; apprehend the suspects with minimal loss of human and animal lives.

“It is a race against time, and all too often, a race that is lost as they arrive at a (crime) scene dressed with the blood and mutilated remains of yet another rhino”

Further up the chain of command, the section ranger must keep a finger pressed firmly against the pulse. A responsibility that ultimately determines the integrity of their section of the park. The Kruger National Park has 22 sections, with each section covering slightly less than 900,000 square kilometers. While the section ranger is a leadership role, it is by no means an oversight role, as section rangers operate alongside rangers whenever the need arises. 

It is easy to imagine these individuals as soldiers; instruments of a military response to an enemy offensive. One is readily drawn to focus on the tactical features of their presence in the park. It is important though to recognize that the ranger corps is a committed, highly skilled and knowledgeable group of men and women that are true conservationists at heart. 

Ranger - leading a life of anonymity. The identities of many rangers are often concealed for their own protection and that of their families.

Ranger - leading a life of anonymity. The identities of many rangers are often concealed for their own protection and that of their families.

Section ranger - his primary function is to ensure the integrity of his section. That task may extend into contact situations with poachers, often exchanging gunfire.

Section ranger - his primary function is to ensure the integrity of his section. That task may extend into contact situations with poachers, often exchanging gunfire.

Special ranger - often in the bush for several days in isolation, tracking, observing and gathering intelligence.

Special ranger - often in the bush for several days in isolation, tracking, observing and gathering intelligence.

Section ranger - one of 22 section rangers in the park with each section extending to more than 850 square kilometers.

Section ranger - one of 22 section rangers in the park with each section extending to more than 850 square kilometers.

Ranger with tracking dog - tracking and apprehending a poacher before he has committed an offence will save a rhino, while tracking and capturing him after the bloody act can lead to valuable intelligence and ultimately criminal prosecution.

Ranger with tracking dog - tracking and apprehending a poacher before he has committed an offence will save a rhino, while tracking and capturing him after the bloody act can lead to valuable intelligence and ultimately criminal prosecution.

ARTICLE CREATORS
Photographer
Food & Wine, Outdoor
A photographer, husband, father, vinyl junkie and wannabe DJ. I live in Cape Town, South Africa. Work all around the country and as far abroad as my work takes me. Over the years I've photographed people, places, food, wildlife. I really enjoy portraiture, as this is the type of photography that challenges both the subject and the creative to create a result that each can take equal ownership of. 
read more
LATEST
MOST LIKED