Zimbabwean elite field rangers took part in the 2022 edition of the Tusk Wildlife Ranger Challenge, third year in running, which hosted over 100 ranger organisations from more than 20 African countries for the Wildlife Ranger Challenge 21km half marathon over the weekend.
The Conservative and Wildlife Fund (CWF) and Painted Dog Conservation joined rangers around the pan-African Wildlife Ranger Challenge to achieve the ultimate goal of raising funds to support thousands of their colleagues in the field.
All participating teams completed the grueling half marathon race while also carrying weight equivalent to an average fully packed check-in suitcase (22kg).
In a world-first, the event also witnessed an elite team of four wildlife rangers attempt to set the fastest known time for completing a half marathon while carrying 22kg. The team was comprised of the strongest athletes from the two previous years.
“We are proud to support the Wildlife Ranger Challenge in its third year, an important event that highlights the incredible efforts of rangers across Africa and raises vital funds to support their livelihoods, the conservation areas in which they live and the iconic wildlife that they work so hard to protect. It was a personal pleasure to meet dozens of rangers in Kenya last year – truly local heroes. Without their daily dedication, wildlife in the region and across Africa would not survive,” said Mark Scheinberg, Founder of Scheinberg Relief Fund.
The Challenge, in which the guardians of the natural world raced across Africa’s protected areas, aims to build upon the last two years of fundraising, amounting to more than £10 million raised to date.
The common drive that united them was to raise vital funds for frontline conservation efforts at a time when resources are more thinly stretched than ever before.
All too often, rangers operate under poor and dangerous working conditions. The lack of resources is compounded by extremely dangerous working conditions, with threats, violence, injury and disease all too common.
Up to 70 per cent of rangers surveyed by the WWF have contracted malaria within a 12-month period, and over 40 per cent have received threats from community members. Tragically, a number of rangers pay the ultimate price, as reflected in the Roll of Honour screened during the annual Tusk Conservation Awards.
“I’m proud to be part of the all-star team representing the Wildlife Ranger Challenge at the African Ranger Congress this week. My work as a ranger is complex and wide-ranging. While we are often thought of as working solely out in the field, we know how important it is to engage local communities in conservation through development, education and advocacy. It is my hope that the team’s race on 17th September helps highlight the critical work of my colleagues across Africa as they stand between wildlife and extinction,” said George Kamasiai, Anti-Poaching Unit Team Commander, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
The Wildlife Ranger Challenge comes in to alleviate present challenges and offer support by raising vital funds, which will widen access to essential equipment, enhanced training and protective measures. The Challenge is also playing a catalyst role needed for the development of the “rangering” profession by increasing recognition for the critical roles’ rangers play
George Kamasiai, Anti-Poaching Unit Team Commander, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy: Bear Grylls, Adventurer and Tusk Ambassador, says: “The time achieved by the all-star team in Kasane is extraordinary, reflecting the exceptional calibre of individuals working across the front lines of Africa’s protected areas. Despite facing enormous challenges, rangers continue to go above and beyond, and could not be more deserving of our support.”
The Wildlife Ranger Challenge brings the vital work of rangers to the fore by providing an opportunity to generate crucial funding for the men and women working on the front line of conservation.
The campaign has to date supported over 9,000 rangers across 24 African countries, becoming a springboard from which the entire “rangering” profession can be recognised and developed.