Written by: Raw Wildlife Encounters
Conservation Photographer Jason Savage follows the frontline rangers who are battling to keep our wildlife safe.
Today is World Ranger Day. A day where we should all stop and take moment to think about the brave men and women out there fighting to
keep our wildlife and wild places safe. I’ve been lucky enough to have spent 3 years of my life living in and learning about conservation in South
Africa. I don’t really classify myself as a full-time ranger, but I’ve done my fair share of ranger work in the field.
My most recent trip to South Africa was to work as a rhino monitor with Wild Heart Conservation. I was excited to get involved after previously spending
my time in Africa monitoring other wildlife with different volunteer agencies, studying at Bhejane Nature Training and working as a guide at Bonomanzi
Game Reserve. I want to focus on conservation and wildlife monitoring and there is no better animal that needs constant attention than the rhino. Numbers
have been decimated throughout Southern Africa due to 'out of control' poaching for their horns. Which are used in traditional medicine
and as a status symbol in Asia.
We would spend the day’s afternoons and nights constantly on guard to make sure our incredible rhinos were as safe as possible. Being a rhino monitor is
an incredibly stressful job. After meeting them for the first time it was love at first sight and I put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure I
did all I could to help keep them as safe as possible.
We had multiple attempts to have our animals poached but thankfully none were. It was team effort from the monitors, reserve management and the surrounding
communities that helped to fight against poaching.
I spent many nights alone in the bush waiting for movement or any sign that people were on the property, as well as checking up on the rhino location.
Every day you look on social media or get messages saying more rhinos have been killed, and despite such intense work going on to save rhinos, we are still losing them.
There are guys out there 24/7 trying to chase down poachers and trying to stop incidents from happening, which ultimately can result in the death of a
ranger or poacher. Posted by the Thin Green Line, they say around 102 rangers lost their lives in 2016/17 in the line of battle
and by accidents while working. These are people going to work every day in some of the most dangerous places you can go. Yet they still do it, passionate
about making the world a better place for people, wildlife and the environment.
Now I’m in Sumatra working with The Rangers of Tangkahan
. The rangers
were fantastic in teaching me about conservation here in the country and the work they are doing in the buffer zone and communities. It’s vital to
the protection of the jungle. It’s less 'full-on' compared to Africa, where rangers carry rifles to protect themselves, but these rangers help to protect
some of the most biodiverse and important jungle in the world. We spent the days walking collecting data, looking for points of interest and engaging
with the local communities.
It has been estimated that Sumatra has seen a 40% decline in forest cover in the past 15 years, and that all forest outside of conservation
areas could be lost over the next few decades. So the Tangkahan ranger’s job is very important.
The data they collect, the people they speak to and influenced, is all starting to come together and become a blueprint for sustainable conservation in
the future, for communities that live along buffer zone regions.
Dealing with multiple human-wildlife conflicts in my short time walking with the rangers, shows that there are many different species using the buffer
zone and living close to the communities. This puts pressure on both the people and the wildlife. You can see when people talk to
the rangers that they are well respected and people listen to them. There is a long way to go but the ball is rolling now.
I hope to work with many rangers in many different countries in the years to come. Learning as much as I can from them and teaching them about what I’ve
also picked up along the way. I hope that I can tell their stories and get people to work together to fight illegal poaching.
I use my photography talent to tell the stories, get messages across and to show people the beautiful wildlife we share the planet with. Bringing them
into people’s lives, to try get them to care and be a part of the solution.
It’s not just up to the conservationist or the animal lovers anymore. Everyone needs to have a basic understanding of conservation and to know that
what you do in everyday life could have an effect on the environment thousands of kilometres away. This is a battle for everyone.
You can help support the rangers that are out there every day fighting to keep the wild, wild. Usually underfunded and under trained these guys need
support now more than ever.
So just take a moment to remember and thank the rangers on World Ranger Day and everyone needs to continue the fight.
Thanks for listening to my story!
Conservation Photographer for The Rangers of Tangkahan
Photo credit: Jason Savage
Written by: Jason Savage for Raw Wildlife Encounters