Posted on 27 August 2018
July 31 was the International Ranger Day. The term "ranger " refers generally to people whose job is to guard and supervise protected areas.
Letter to readers from Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana –
Express de Madagascar, August 17, 2018
In some countries, they are trained people, sometimes armed, who belong to a clearly defined socio-professional category, having an employee status, like in the United States or closer to us in South Africa. Depending on the location and context, the term "ranger" includes " forest wardens", "eco-guard", "wildlife guardian", etc.
The International Ranger Day was created at the initiative of the International Ranger Federation to commemorate those who "lost their lives or were injured in the line of duty.” It was also launched to celebrate the work of the Rangers to protect the natural treasures and cultural heritage of the planet. In addition to this day, rangers from all over the world meet to discuss their common challenges at the World Rangers Congress every three years.
This International Rangers Day is unknown in Madagascar and as demonstrated by the absence of any scheduled celebration. Does this mean that we do not have "rangers"? Today, we have more than 100 protected areas comprising around 7 million ha, and in 2014, we committed to expanding the number of marine protected areas. So, who is protecting them on a daily basis? In fact, apart from the parks managed by Madagascar National Parks, it is mainly the members of local communities living around protected areas, who are members of grassroots community associations that manage natural resources. Polisin'ala, Local Forestry Committee, Local Surveillance Committee, Local Based Committee, etc.
We have various ways to designate them, but the fact is that they are the ones who will regularly walk tens of kilometers to monitor protected areas.
Areas where nature still deserves protection are increasingly remote and hard to reach, you have to travel on foot or by canoe. Their job consist in monitoring the state of health of the fauna and flora, identifying problems, especially the signs of threats - lemur traps, tree trunks, clearing. The information they collect is crucial for guiding management actions in these protected areas. Their patrols are also used to detect and deter intrusions and offenses of all kinds – a challenging task when law enforcement agencies are far, have limited resources, or have been corrupted. Offenders are becoming well organized and often armed, whether with machetes, axes and even firearms; retaliation threats in case of denunciation are common.
Last April, the house of the treasurer of the locally cased community of Ankazomborona, township of Beramanja, district of Ambilobe, DIANA region, was deliberately set on fire by the criminals after they committed acts sanctioned by the local dina. Last June, fishermen who are members of the management committee of the marine area of Itampolo, Atsimo Andrefana region, had to intercept four Sri Lankan speedboats, equipped with nets and hooks, who were preparing to fish in their management zone, without permission or permit, and with illegal fishing materials not permited by the rules agreed in their dina. Controling such events often exceeds the capacity of these local communities.
And yet these polisin'ala are the first bulwarks against all forms of illicit exploitation of natural resources. It is a great responsibility that weighs on their shoulders for rather few benefits of their actions. So while we wait for professionalization of these "rangers" - and we will have to think if seriously we want to secure and manage efficiently these protected areas - we congratulate their courage and devotion.