Rangers play a vital role in conservation management and protection, often spending long, hard hours on patrol on the lookout for those who prey on precious and vulnerable wildlife. But at the end of their shift, when they are back in camp, they need to call on other skills too. Working as a close, family unit, they share jobs out between the team, with everyone taking turns to cook, clean and manage the camp.
Out in Limpopo National Park, the rangers have to be pretty self-sufficient as the base camp, also known as FOB, the Forward Operating Base, is literally miles from any shops or conveniences. There is no time to pop to the local hairdressers when they need a trim, for example, so they take it upon themselves to act as barber to each other. In fact life there is pretty basic – no mains water or electricity – but this is part of the charm for the rangers. Eating outside around a braai (BBQ) under a starry night certainly isn’t in most people’s job descriptions, but it’s a pretty special part of a ranger’s day.
As being a ranger is not really a 9-5 job, camp life needs to provide lots of home comforts. Something that brings a smile to all the rangers’ faces after a long day, or night, on patrol, is the sight of Hunter, the camp dog, who is usually first to greet them with a wagging tail. Although Hunter is known for taking long naps, he does perk up to play at that magic hour each evening. He provides real companionship for all the rangers in camp and, at the end of the day, when everyone settles down to sleep, it is Hunter who sits awake, ensuring no large animals like elephant or hyena, come too close to camp.