Africa-Press – Sierra-Leone. Ahead of World Ranger Day on Sunday 31st July, over 100 ranger teams from 15 African countries including Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia and Nigeria are gearing up for the 2022 Wildlife Ranger Challenge, a multi-million dollar fundraising initiative, culminating in the Wildlife Ranger Challenge 21km half marathon on Saturday 17th September.
Now in its third year running, the Wildlife Ranger Challenge seeks to have a bigger impact than ever before. Previous years’ campaigns have raised a total of more than $12 million. Building on this success, the 2022 Challenge seeks to correct misconceptions of the role of rangers and support the development of the entire “rangering” profession.
Too often, wildlife rangers are wildly misunderstood. As Effa Mathew Febwi, a wildlife ranger from Gashaka Gumti National Park in Nigeria, explains, “Park Rangers are important to conservation all over the world because they patrol protected areas, monitor wildlife, prevent poaching and other illegal activities.”
However, a ranger’s role can mean so much more. “They help communities resolve human-wildlife conflicts, engage local communities in conservation, assist with tourism and risk their lives for conservation.”The Wildlife Ranger Challenge will spotlight the multifaceted role of rangers to demonstrate their wider roles as conservationists, teachers, community support workers and leaders, contributing not just to protecting wildlife and supporting their immediate communities, but to global UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The challenge also seeks to highlight the diversity within the profession. “In the past, women would be overlooked for this job because we did not fit the traditional conception of a wildlife ranger,” says Sergeant Belinda Acacia Mzimba from The Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit (South Africa).
“However, over time, we have proven women play a vital role in protecting Africa’s rich natural heritage. From deterring poachers out in the field, to teaching the value of conservation among local communities, we tackle habitat and biodiversity loss from every angle, leaving no stone unturned.”The launch of this year’s Challenge was marked by a spectacular light display in London on Tuesday, with iconic landmarks such as the South African High Commission in the heart of Trafalgar Square lit up to showcase a map of Africa and the participating countries.
With the campaign launched, wildlife rangers across Africa are now gearing up for the half marathon race day on 17th September, which will coincide with the African Ranger Congress taking place in Kasane, Botswana, at which Tusk and its partners, the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa, and NATURAL STATE, intend to bring together delegates to take part in the Challenge, with a view to setting a new Guinness World Record for the fastest half marathon carrying 22kg.
The race will be accompanied by a series of mental and physical challenges, with the public in Africa and around the world encouraged to participate in solidarity with the rangers. Conservationists and celebrities alike are encouraging nature-lovers to get involved as much as they can.
“With poaching rates on the rise, the demands on rangers will only become greater,” says Tusk Ambassador and Adventurer Bear Grylls. “Taking part in the Wildlife Ranger Challenge is a fantastic way to show you’re for wildlife rangers and ensure these conservation heroes receive the recognition and vital funds they so critically need.”
The Wildlife Ranger Challenge 2022 is proudly launched by Tusk, a charity which for more than 30 years has worked to amplify the impact of progressive conservation initiatives across Africa. Since its formation, Tusk has helped pioneer an impressive range of successful conservation projects across more than 20 countries, including in Nigeria, Guinea and Mali.
These initiatives have not only increased vital protection for more than 40 different threatened species, but also helped to alleviate poverty through sustainable development and education amongst rural communities living alongside wildlife.Building on thirty years’ experience in the conservation space, Tusk believes it can scale its latest campaign, the Wildlife Ranger Challenge 2022, to heights not seen before.
“The campaign has to date supported over 2,000 rangers across 24 African countries,” tells Charlie Mayhew MBE, Chief Executive of Tusk. “Looking ahead, we have even greater ambitions for the Wildlife Ranger Challenge. We hope the Challenge will become not only the largest pan-African sporting event, but a springboard from which the entire “rangering” profession can be recognised and developed.”
Tusk is incredibly grateful to the generosity of Mark Scheinberg and the Scheinberg Relief Fund, the Challenge’s founding donor, who has generously committed $1 million in match-funding in support of rangers, on top of the total $6.5 million to the campaign to date.
Find out more, donate to the cause and sign up to run in solidarity with Africa’s rangers at wildliferangerchallenge.org