Being a ranger in Africa is no easy job and requires hard work, passion and most importantly resilience. These men and women are on the frontlines – often the last lines – of conservation. They are dedicating their lives to keeping our wildlife and natural heritage protected. They wake well before sunrise and patrol long into the night. They are the boots on the ground and the eyes in the sky, risking their lives every day to safeguard Africa’s incredible protected areas.
It is not unusual for rangers to come across dangerous situations, and the underestimated power of resilience is now being recognised and harnessed to improve not only performance in the field but to develop rangers into better leaders.
The Power Of Resilience
The qualities and skills needed to be a ranger go far beyond physical fitness, firearm competency, mitigating human-wildlife conflict, tracking and having tactical knowledge. Although all these skills are crucial to be able to do this job, having mental toughness, resilience and leadership skills are equally important.
A recent collaboration between Peace Parks Foundation, Southern African Wildlife College and The Sophia Foundation identified just how important resilience is when working in the field. Typical ranger training focuses on the operational and tactical side of things whilst developing an individual’s inner abilities, emotions and resilience is often overlooked. As a result, a leadership and resilience training course has been launched, and a group just completed the first course.
Why Is Resilience Important?
Many people often mistake resilience as having a ‘grin and bear it’ attitude. It’s not. Resilience is, in fact, a quality that can be developed through increased flexibility to help cope with rapid change, a positive outlook and regulating our inner emotions and nervous system when faced with adversity or dangerous situations.
This course focuses on all the above and encourages rangers to look inwards, which is very different any other training that they would have undergone in the past. Having improved resilience when working in high-stress and sometimes traumatic situations will greatly help rangers to become better leaders.
There are always going to be challenges and high stresses when working in this line of work. It is what being a nature guardian demands. For them to stay mentally healthy and effective, it is crucial that rangers use what they learnt in the training programme. It will also deepen their influence and impact within their environment.
Peace Parks Foundation, Southern African Wildlife College and The Sophia Foundation hope that inner development courses such as this, start becoming a regular part of ranger training. This will motivate leaders to pass the knowledge on to their teams and improve the overall health and wellbeing of ranger forces.