On World Ranger Day, WWF reaffirms commitment to support professionalisation, reforms of global ranger workforce

Posted on 31 July 2021

The call comes as the International Ranger Federation (IRF) announces that 120 rangers lost their lives in the line of duty between 2020-2021 - due to homicides, wildlife attacks, motor accidents, and other daily threats to safety.
On World Ranger Day today 31 July, WWF reaffirms its commitment toward supporting vital reforms and professionalisation of the global ranger workforce, including critical interventions in ranger advocacy and representation, community-ranger relations, equality and equity in the ranger workforce through initiatives such as the Universal Ranger Support Alliance (URSA). The call comes as the International Ranger Federation (IRF) announces that 120 rangers lost their lives in the line of duty between 2020-2021 - due to homicides, wildlife attacks, motor accidents, and other daily threats to safety. The global health pandemic is also estimated to have taken the lives of at least 500 rangers in the past year.  

“This has been a particularly taxing year for Rangers who have the unenviable task of having to tackle the twin global crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, which poses current and future threats to people, the environment and global heritage,” said Chris Galliers, President of the International Ranger Federation. “As if that were not enough, they have also had to do this in the midst of a global pandemic which has resulted in increased health risks and also threatened their job security. We thank those rangers who have passed, whose lives we will remember and celebrate, as well as the current rangers whose true value as planetary health professionals must be fully recognized.”

Rangers play a vital role in maintaining planetary health. From helping avert future pandemics by protecting the world’s last remaining biodiversity hotspots to addressing water shortages among local communities by constructing water sources — their roles and contributions are diverse. 

In Colombia, rangers have produced research that highlights how indigenous communities have been impacted by mercury contamination from illegal gold mining. In Cambodia, community rangers have developed indigenous-led patrolling models that have ensured the survival of the nearly extinct Siamese Crocodile, and the critical habitat they share. And in the wake of COVID-19, many rangers have also been at the frontlines of the pandemic response, tasked with raising awareness on pandemic prevention, addressing food insecurity by delivering food rations to hard-to-reach communities, and responding to an uptick in illegal logging and wildlife crime in many parts of the world. 

But despite these critical contributions, many rangers continue to work under extremely harsh health, welfare, and safety conditions with inadequate support, training, and insurance. The pandemic has also taken a significant toll on the sector; In the wake of COVID-19, a global survey found that nearly half of rangers in Asia and Africa had no immediate access to healthcare and 1 in 4 rangers have lost their jobs. 

When it comes to preventing pandemics, rangers are on the frontlines too. As such, they deserve to enjoy union representation, the full coverage of labour laws and protection against violence at work as stated by the latest ILO Convention, adopted in the centenary year of 2019.  Above all, governments should include them in all labour policy discussions,” says Carlos R. Carrión-Crespo, Sectoral Specialist for Public Service and Utilities, International Labour Organization

WWF is a founding member of URSA, a first of its kind coalition of global conservation organizations in support of professionalising the global ranger workforce which comprises government forces as well as community and indigenous rangers. By ensuring that the urgently needed investments, tools, reforms, and policy changes are put in place, URSA’s five-year Action Plan sets out to create an enabling environment for professionalising rangers so that they can serve their duties effectively and responsibly. 

The launch of the Action Plan is foregrounded by other steps forward in fulfilling URSA’s commitment; In April 2021, the International Ranger Federation (IRF), with support from URSA, launched the world’s first Global Ranger Code of Conduct, and has begun working towards its implementation. In early July, IRF and URSA also announced the launch of the first comprehensive and global analysis of the challenges and opportunities for bringing gender equality into the ranger workforce. Evidence presented in the report suggests that bringing gender equality into the ranger workforce has the potential to improve conservation, relationships with communities, park management, and wildlife management. 

Through its roadmap, URSA will continue working with the IRF, the conservation community, government partners, ranger associations, community organisations and other stakeholders to address the need for change and implement the Chitwan Declaration on needs and priorities for rangers — to help better protect biodiversity and people. 

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Contact: Olga Biegus, Programme Manager, URSA; obiegus@ursa4rangers.org

About URSA:
URSA was formed in response to the Chitwan Declaration, a detailed list of needs and priorities for rangers — including calls to strengthen ranger capacity, introduce welfare standards, build ranger-community relationships, mainstream gender equality, leverage technology, and promote further inclusion of Indigenous and community rangers. Signed by more than 550 rangers from 70 countries gathered at the World Ranger Congress in 2019, it remains the largest public statement by world rangers in history. 

URSA's founding members are Fauna & Flora International, Force For Nature, Global Wildlife Conservation, International Ranger Federation, Panthera, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, World Wide Fund For Nature, and Zoological Society of London. For more information, visit: ursa4rangers.org
 
Rangers sets up camera trap
Rangers sets up camera trap
© WWF/ James Morgan
Community rangers using aerial photographs
© WWF MWIOPO / Louise Jasper