Africa’s wildlife is under siege from relentless poachers and concerned organisations are raising the alarm saying there is no end in sight unless more funds are made available to fight the scourge.
Rangers on the continent are stretched to capacity and continue to see drastic cuts in resources and an increase in poaching due to the devastating economic impact of Covid-19.
Ranger teams across Africa are calling for public support as they join forces this weekend to bolster the anti-poaching efforts of thousands of their colleagues.
The Wildlife Ranger Challenge is a multi-million-dollar fundraising initiative in support of the thousands of men and women on the frontline of Africa’s Protected Areas in safeguarding the continent’s iconic wildlife for years to come.
A recent survey, conducted by Tusk and NATURAL STATE with 60 field conservation organisations across 19 African countries, found that “wildlife rangers see no relief in sight”.
The pressures on Africa’s protected areas threaten to compromise decades of development and conservation success.
Owing to the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns there has been a continental-wide collapse of wildlife tourism causing a rise in poaching.
Experts warn that the Covid-19 crisis has eliminated essential funding for wildlife protection that comes from tourism.
In 2018, the global wildlife tourism economy generated over $100bn and provided nine million jobs, worldwide.
But Covid-19 has resulted in an almost complete end to cross-border travel, severely affecting countries dependent on tourism revenue as a significant part of their GDP.
The tourism impact alone could lead to a reduction in GDP of USD 53-120 billion on the continent.
The impact of the pandemic on revenue generation was so serious that nearly half of protected areas across Africa reported that they could only maintain basic operations for up to three months if the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 continued to be enforced.
“The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to be felt in Nsumbu [North Luangwa, Zambia], particularly through the continued loss of tourism and the income derived which both directly and indirectly support rangers,” says the Frankfurt Zoological Society.
This reduced tourism has impacted jobs and related livelihoods and provided a challenge in linking the value of nature with the value to human life.”
Rhino Ark, Aberdares National Park, Kenya, says: “Tourist revenue for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has dropped by 96%, triggering budget cuts to government [wildlife and] forest security programmes.”
Commenting on of the effects of poaching on the Hwange National Park In Zimbabwe, the Conservation & Wildlife Fund says: “Once lockdown restrictions started easing, poachers leapt back into action – the number of traps and snares recovered increased by 8,000% between May and July 2020.”
To push back on the slide, the Ranger Fund, is holding a 21km race this Saturday, 18 September, that will see more than 150 ranger teams across Africa participating.
The 2021 Wildlife Ranger Challenge will take place across the varied and challenging terrain of Africa’s Protected Areas.
In 2020, the first edition of the Wildlife Ranger Challenge raised $10m to support over 9 000 rangers who collectively work to protect more than 4 000 000 km2 of conservation areas across Africa providing salaries, equipment and operating costs.
The Kissama Foundation in Angola says: “If it wasn’t for the WRC, we wouldn’t have been able to cover the salaries of most of the ranger force due to serious funding cuts related to the pandemic. The effort of many years could have been lost.”
This year, the Wildlife Ranger Challenge 2021 initiative seeks to raise $5m.
The Challenge’s founding donor, The Scheinberg Relief Fund, has generously committed another $1.35m of matching funds in support of rangers, on top of the $5m provided in 2020.
In addition, for a second consecutive year, EJF Philanthropies has contributed $100,000 at Elephant Platinum Sponsorship leve.
Last month, British adventurer Bear Grylls kicked off the challenge with a video (https://bit.ly/2Z12F4M) describing the need for urgent action.
Celebrities, including Tusk’s Royal Patron, HRH The Duke of Cambridge Prince William (https://bit.ly/3kebYGQ), Olympic marathon gold medalist Eliud Kipchoge (https://bit.ly/3kcEUin) and Namibian supermodel Behati Prinsloo Levine (https://bit.ly/399w8eM) have encouraged the public to register to run the virtual race and donate to the Ranger Fund (https://bit.ly/3zbAHj5).
Funds raised will cover the operating costs for at least 5 000 rangers, enabling them to provide for their families, protect communities and wildlife in some of the continent’s most vulnerable areas.
Tusk, NATURAL STATE, Game Rangers Association of Africa, The Thin Green Line, For Rangers, and the International Ranger Federation have partnered with 60 conservation areas to launch the pan-African challenge.
This global campaign seeks to use the power of ranger voices, influencers and celebrities to issue a call to arms to the public to support Africa’s rangers by donating to the Ranger Fund or by taking part in the Wildlife Ranger Challenge in solidarity, wherever they are in the world.
To support, sign up to run or walk virtually in solidarity with Africa’s rangers this weekend, on 18 September 2021.