Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa marked World Ranger Day (Sunday, July 31) with a commemorative message highlighting the dedication and commitment of South Africa’s ranger corps, the “troubling” arrest of a Kruger National Park ranger in connection with rhino poaching notwithstanding.
“It is troubling to hear one of our own rangers, tasked with protecting these animals (rhino) should be involved in such a heinous crime,” she said at the same time commending Kruger field rangers “who quick actions led to the apprehension of the suspects”.
“The despicable actions of one unprincipled ranger should never be allowed to detract from the reality that most of our rangers are honest and principled,” Molewa said.
World Ranger Day is supported by the International Rangers Federation and is marked annually on July 31 to acknowledge game rangers and the important role they fill in wildlife conservation internationally.
Earlier in the year Kruger ranger Enos Mabila was killed and a colleague “Killers” Ubisi wounded while on counter-poaching operations. A SANParks helicopter has been shot at by suspected poachers in another potentially fatal incident.
“Were it not for these rave men and women who daily risk their lives to protect species in our natural world, many species would face extinction,” the Minister said.
Speaking at a commemorative function in Kruger managing executive Glenn Phillips said: “The job of a ranger with all its associated dangers and sacrifices is a calling.
“It needs men and women who keep focus out there in the bush and very few people have the courage and necessary skills to perform this important task other than rangers. We encourage everybody who understands what rangers face on daily basis to rally behind them.”
Kruger National Park rangers, as well as others at the 18 other national park, fill an important role combatting wildlife crime and maintaining the integrity of the parks they work in.
Phillips also referred to last week’s arrest saying despite it “we urge our entire anti-poaching team to continue to maintain the good reputation they are renowned for and not allow the actions of a few to derail them from keeping focus”.