As we head in to 2022, the challenges facing southern Africa’s rangers remain greater than ever. Commercial poaching and wildlife trafficking continues to threaten remarkable and already endangered species such as rhino, elephant, pangolins and many of the big cats. As well as wildlife, there is an extensive illegal trade in timber and rare plants such as orchids that jeopardise the very existence of some native flora. Unfortunately, this is leading to a huge loss of biodiversity, which can unravel entire ecosystems. After all, every species plays its unique part in the ecosystem. Remove one, and the others all suffer too.

This is where rangers and other field crew come in. They play a vital role in conservation management and protection. They spend many days out in the bush tracking illegal commercial activities and planning and managing operations to shut these down. This work is arduous as conditions out in the bush can be extremely challenging. Roads can be all but impassable, where there are roads at all, and at times even a few kilometres can take several hours. Besides this, commercial poaching syndicates can be dangerous too, often carrying arms in their quest to poach wildlife. So, keeping fit and healthy is paramount to a ranger’s ability to do their job. At the beginning of a new year, they double down on their fitness regimes and marching drills to ensure they are in peak physical condition so that they can always give their all.

Of course, the vehicles also need to be up to the job, so there is ongoing maintenance to be done. Rangers need to be able to fix mechanical issues as they are often miles from assistance. This does not deter them from having a bit of fun too, as good humour is a helpful tool in any ranger’s kit.