Rangers are the boots on the ground that protect wildlife daily. Their work is challenging, difficult and often dangerous but goes a long way in ensuring areas that are high in poaching activities are patrolled and that communities are educated about the importance of preserving nature.
This World Ranger Day, we take you behind the scenes of three Akashinga rangers, Batsirai, Angela and Jesnara. They give us a glimpse into what it means to be a ranger.
From the moment new recruits come on board, they complete a six-month training program involving different practical and theoretical modules. During this period, instructors can better understand each ranger and work with their strengths and weaknesses to ensure they reach their full potential.
Speaking on the importance of training rangers, Akashinga training instructor, Belinda Mukomberanwa says we cover a range of modules that include weapon handling, ethics, fieldcraft and bushcraft. These courses are designed to prepare rangers for the various scenarios they may encounter.
"A ranger needs to know the fundamentals of what to do or the best way of care if they are hurt while on patrol. In the first aid course, they learn the basics of treating serious bleeding, significant wounds, head or spine injuries, fractures, burns, snake bites, and other traumas,” she said.
Once training is complete, the learning doesn’t stop there; rangers continue to sharpen their skills, through advanced classes and physical training assessments.
Meet the Rangers:
Batsirai Chabikwa, 36
Batsirai was a funeral assurance marketing agent before joining the IAPF. She worked long hours selling insurance policies to provide for her family, but she often found herself at a shortfall financially because she was paid on commission.
Now working as a ranger, she recalls how her childhood aspirations led her to this point.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be a soldier and would picture myself wearing their uniforms so working as a ranger was something that excited me,” she said.
“While I was excited, I faced many challenges at the beginning because it was a lifestyle adjustment; I found the physical training to be the most difficult as it was something I had never done before.”
“Over time I got used to it and realized after completing my training that initially it may feel like a very difficult job but as time goes you realize it is a job where no two days are the same and it can be quite exciting,” she said.
What it means to Batsirai to be a ranger - "Being a ranger means I have the responsibility to make my contribution towards protecting wildlife and educating my community about how to cohabitate with animals. Though not always easy, it has been a very rewarding journey so far as I can also support my family."
Jesnara Chimhondoro, 25
Before joining the IAPF Jesnara spent her days farming and selling produce to support her family. Today as a ranger she spends her days working towards fighting for a better future for wildlife.
While out on patrol she ensures teamwork and applying training principles on the field is at the cornerstone of every move.
“My first patrol we were a stick of 9 rangers; we taught the languages to use while patrolling, which are mainly hand signals,” she said.
“We use hand signals to communicate to with other rangers so we can keep up as a team. The first patrol took about 5 hours from camp to the base and back to camp. The first day was very hard because the terrain of the area was not flat,” she said
What it means to Jesnara to be a ranger - "I think our job is very important because we get the chance to protect the ecosystem for future generations to come. Being a ranger takes a lot of courage. Sometimes we have to leave our families and come to work but in as much as it is hard, we have to endure as all rangers are supposed to be courageous and make sacrifices. The rewards of seeing the impact we have makes our sacrifices worth it."
Angela Kapoko, 28
Angela is a fighter on and off the field; having dropped out of school due to falling pregnant, her life was not easy. The father of her child abandoned her, leaving her to raise her baby alone with no support.
To make ends meet, she would sell vegetables but the income was not sustainable so she relied heavily on the support of family members.
“Life was not easy for me when I had no source of income; I felt helpless because I always had to wait for someone to help me so that I could feed my baby.”
Today, Angela’s life has taken a different turn; working as a ranger, she now earns a stable income and is working towards returning to school.
“I did not have the opportunity to further my education but the knowledge I have gained from the different training courses we do has given me the confidence to go back to school and educate myself.”
What it means to Angela to be a ranger - "I never knew the importance of conservation and looking after our land and animals until I became a ranger. I have since learned that every bit of effort we put in, slowly makes a difference. We can see the changes in our community as animals return; knowing this keeps me going on the difficult days."