Johannesburg, July 27, 2021…South African wildlife rangerswill soon be joining their counterparts from across Africa in a global driveto unite rangers, influencers, and celebrities to raise funds lost through the COVID-19 pandemic that has sparked a rise in poaching and loss of animals across the continent.
Local rangers will join 150 teams from other 20 African countries in a series of events that will begin with the launch of World Ranger Day on 31 July. From Ranger Day, the South Africans will then take part in a series of mental and physical challenges that will culminate with the running of a half-marathon (21 km) race, the finale of the events on 18 September.
The global fundraising effort is a response to a continent-wide wildlife crisis that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic reducing tourism volumes by about 70% and virtually eliminating the flow of essential funding from tourism into anti-poaching activities across the continent.
The current pressures on Africa’s protected areas threaten to compromise decades of development and conservation success. Africa’s rangers are stretched to capacity and continue to see drastic cuts in resources and an increase in subsistence poaching due to the devastating economic impact of Covid-19. A new survey, conducted by Tusk and NATURAL STATE with60 field conservation organisations across 19 African countries, found that Wildlife Rangers see no relief in sight, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact Africa’s communities and wildlife. Ultimately, this reduction in capacity to fight poaching could result in an increasing threat to wildlife as international borders reopen, opening the possibility for cross-border poaching incursions and illicit trade.
The campaign, the second to take place, will use the power of ranger voices, influencers, and celebrities to mobilise public support for Africa’s rangers by donating to the Ranger Fund or by taking part in the Wildlife Ranger Challenge events, wherever they may be in the world.
The 21-km run, part of a coordinated effort that will see the event being run simultaneously in all 20 participating countries on the same day, will see various South African conservation organisations taking part such as the Southern African Wildlife College, Project Rhino, Transfrontier Africa, Wildlands Conservation Trust and the Wildlife ACT Fund Trust.
WRCaims at raising about $ 5,000,000 by the time the Half Marathon (21 km) race, the highlight of the Challenge takes place across the varied and challenging terrain of Africa’s Protected Areas in September. It is being organised by The Tusk Lion Trail, and Natural State in conjunction with the leading ranger associations.
Tusk’s mission is to amplify the impact of progressive conservation initiatives across Africa. The charity has earned a reputation for providing a highly efficient solution for funding wildlife conservation programmes. Natural State carry out large scale restoration projects, promote biodiversity and support measurable gains towards Sustainable Development Goals. Other partners in the WRC initiative include Scheinberg Relief Fund, Game Rangers Association of Africa, and the International Ranger Federation.
Says, Sergeant Nyaradzo Hoto of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation,“COVID-19 has presented unique challenges to our programmes The pandemic has significantly impacted and continues to impact, our anti-poaching operations. There has been an alarming spike in the rate of ivory-related arrests made by our team over the last year. The poachers will not rest despite the pandemic, so it is up to us to maintain operations. This is proving a challenge, but one we’re resolving well as a team. We stand strong in our commitment to patrol the vast wilderness areas we are entrusted with and protect those that can’t fend for themselves against poachers.”
The first Wildlife Ranger Challenge launched in 2020, raised US $10m which was used to support more than 9 000 rangers working to protect over 4 000 000 km2 of conservation areas across Africa by providing salaries, equipment and helping to meet operating costs.
For further information on the Wildlife Ranger Challenge, the events, and details of how to contribute to the wildlife cause, go to www.wildliferangerchallenge.org.
Notes to editors:
TOURISM: In 2018, the global wildlife tourism economy generated over $100bn and provided nine million jobs, worldwide. But COVID-19 has resulted in an almost complete end to cross border travel, severely affecting countries dependent on tourism revenue as a significant part of their GDP. The International Labour Organizationsuggests that African tourism operators have seen more than a 70% decrease in bookings due to the pandemic (UNECA 2021. Building Forward for an African Green Economy), significantly impacting revenue streams for conservation areas. As a result, more than 50% of rangers reported that they had experienced budget cuts and over 30% of rangers reported that colleagues had been laid off. (Singh et al, 2021. Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on rangers and the role of rangers as a Planetary Health Service. Parks 27: 119-134.)
The tourism impact alone could lead to a USD 53-120bnhit to the continent’s GDP. The impact of the pandemic on revenue generation was so serious that nearly half of PA agencies across Africa reported that they could only maintain basic operations for up to three months if the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 continued to be in force. (Waithaka, 2020. The impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Africa’s Protected Areas Operations and Programmes. IUCN-WCPA Report)
POACHING: The COVID-19 pandemic has had catastrophic impacts globally on human life, physical and mental health, and on our societies and economies. In Africa, the International Labour Organisation predicts that 30m people will lose their jobs during the pandemic, with the ECA estimating that 100m people will be living in poverty. Such hardships place major additional pressures on protected areas as communities increase natural resource use to survive.
(UNECA 2021. Building Forward for an African Green Economy.)
CHALLENGE: The Wildlife Ranger Challenge was formed at the start of the COVID-19 global pandemic in 2020, following several conversations between Jonathan Baillie, a global leader in conservation biology, and Mark Scheinberg, a businessman and philanthropist with a keen interest in conservation and animal welfare. Mark was concerned with the devastating effect that the virus was having on the livelihoods of Wildlife Rangers throughout Africa and the animals they were responsible for protecting. After consulting with strategic partners, they created this exciting campaign, and The Challenge is being coordinated by Tusk and NATURAL STATE in collaboration with leading Ranger Associations and an independent Steering Committee. The initiative’s founding donor, the Scheinberg Relief Fund, will match donations from the public up to $1.35m, covering operating costs for at least 5,000 rangers in at least 50 conservation areas in 2021.
THE RANGER FUND
Funds raised will cover the operating costs for at least 5,000 rangers, enabling them to provide for their families, protect communities and wildlife in some of the continent’s most vulnerable areas. The Scheinberg Relief Fund, the Challenge’s founding donor, has generously committed another $1.35m of matching funds in support of rangers, on top of the $5m provided in 2020, with the goal of raising a total of $5m in 2021. In addition, for a second consecutive year, EJF Philanthropies contributed at Elephant Platinum Sponsorship level of $100,000.
Tusk’s mission is to amplify the impact of progressive conservation initiatives across Africa. The charity has earned a reputation for providing a highly efficient solution for funding wildlife conservation programmes. Tusk partners with the most effective local organisations, investing in their in-depth knowledge and expertise. By supporting and nurturing their conservation programmes, it helps accelerate growth from an innovative idea to a scalable solution. More information available at Tusk.org
ABOUT NATURAL STATE
The mission of NATURAL STATE is landscape restoration at scale. Through large-scale restoration projects, NATURAL STATE’s objective is to sequester and store carbon, secure biodiversity and make measurable advances towards the sustainable development goals. In addition to implementing large scale restoration projects, NATURAL STATE develops innovative technology and financial mechanisms to unlock private sector capital, thereby accelerating restoration efforts globally. More information available at NaturalState.org
ABOUT THE SCHEINBERG RELIEF FUNDThe Scheinberg Relief Fund was established by businessman and philanthropist, Mark Scheinberg, together with his family, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its mission is to provide strategic, high impact relief for individuals and communities. As well as reducing the short-term impact of the virus, the Fund also seeks to build a legacy in the communities and initiatives that it gives to, by providing funding for projects that secure a longer-term impact. More information available at www.scheinbergfund.org
ABOUT THE GAME RANGERS’ ASSOCIATION OF AFRICA
Founded in 1970, the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa is a non-profit organization which is the oldest, largest, and most representative ranger association in Africa. More information available at GameRanger.org
ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL RANGER FEDERATION
The International Ranger Federation is a membership-based organization who actively promotes and supports the formation of Ranger Associations around the world to ensure Rangers are more adequately supported and represented. More information available at internationalrangers.org
ABOUT THE THIN GREEN LINE FOUNDATION
The Thin Green Line Foundation Protects Nature’s Protectors by providing vital support to Park Rangers and their communities who are the front-line of conservation. They work predominantly in developing nations and conflict zones, and with Indigenous Park Rangers.