In 1980, African elephant populations were estimated at 1.2 million. But poaching is decimating these graceful land giants. There are only 430,00o elephants left; 20,000 were killed last year alone.
Poachers are after ivory. To get it they kill the elephant and hack off its tusks at the skull. More and more calves are being orphaned and families split by poaching. Poachers are doing this because ivory – although international trade is banned – fetches an estimated $650 per kilogram on the black market.
But there is a group of people that stand in the way of poachers, and they are the wildlife rangers that work everyday to combat poaching.
Combatting poaching is not an easy job. These rangers encounter carcasses of elephants that they have come to know. Elephants that they were trying to protect.
It’s not a safe job. Rangers are often combating poachers who are heavily armed and highly motivated by the prospect of a hefty cash payout when the tusks are removed. In early June, two rangers from the Northern Rangelands Trust in Kenya were killed.
Poachers are not individuals or disorganized groups of people; they are often armed militants, some of whom are part of rebel armies – such as the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) – who use the tusks to directly fund their activities.
But it’s a rewarding job, and The Nature Conservancy’s Africa program is working with local partners in Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania to help train, fund and equip wildlife rangers.
Sadly, there are instances of rangers succumbing to financial motivation and abetting poachers. But we can’t let that dissuade us from supporting rangers who on the whole bring integrity and dedication to this fight.
The world needs rangers to continue to be the boots on the ground in the war against elephant poaching. The future of this species depends on it.
Thank a wildlife ranger today – and help in the war against poaching. A $50 donation could fund a park ranger’s efforts in the war against elephant poaching for an entire week.
Learn more about what The Nature Conservancy is doing to protect elephants — and what you can do to help — at nature.org/elephants.
[Image: A member of the private security force that patrols against poaching and banditry for wildlife and people at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Northern Rangelands Trust in northern Kenya. Image Source: Ron Geatz/TNC]