Embracing Rangers on World Ranger Day
Today we celebrate the brave, front line heroes protecting our natural heritage for future generations. Particularly in Africa, the current poaching epidemic targeting rhinos, elephants and other iconic species has led to rangers increasingly finding themselves in combat situations – and paying a significant price for it.
In addition to providing ongoing field support for rhino rangers in Zimbabwe and South Africa, for the past year, through our partner, StopRhinoPoaching.com, the IRF has funded Operation: Embrace, a ranger well-being program in a critical protected area in South Africa. We have just awarded a second year of support from Operation: STOP POACHING NOW funding. We were inspired to become involved after hearing Major General Johan Jooste (Retired), now SANParks Head of Special Projects, speak about the need to take care of rangers at every level, but as people, first and foremost.
A ranger’s work is dangerous, difficult, unappreciated, and often unrecognized. The stress from performing such work can be cumulative and manifests itself in many different ways. Operation: Embrace provides counseling for rangers who have been engaged in front-line encounters. A counselor visits the protected area weekly to meet with rangers, usually on a voluntary basis, although supervisors can request sessions for a ranger under their command if they feel it is warranted.