"Never has the work of rangers been more important and necessary than it is today." These were the words of famed primatologist Jane Goodall in her World Ranger Day message as she expressed her support and thanks to those tasked with protecting the world's wildlife. In the last year, over 140 park rangers have reportedly lost their lives in the line of duty. In reality, that number may actually be far greater as many deaths go unreported. For most of us, environmental crime is something we read about in headlines or hear about in panel discussions – it's easy to overlook the tireless work carried out by park rangers across the globe who commit their lives to the preservation of the world's wild species and places.

World Ranger Day (July 31) is a chance to pay tribute to those who have fallen in the fight to save our fauna and flora, and to show support for those still fighting.


"Rangers continue to keep wildlife and wild places safe despite tremendous odds," Andrew Campbell, chief executive of the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa (GRAA), told Times Live. "Often working unsupported under treacherous conditions they face perils in the form of dangerous working environments, extreme weather, disease, animal attacks and armed gunmen."

Recent years have seen high levels of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife, as well as the involvement of organised criminal syndicates in the burgeoning business of environmental crime. The challenges and risks facing rangers today are perhaps greater than they have ever been as they fight heavily armed, well-developed criminal networks.

"In some areas these brave men and women regularly encounter well-resourced groups of poachers, equipped with high caliber weapons, and in the face of great danger determinedly perform their duties, often without the recompense allocated to their counterparts in other enforcement agencies," CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero, wrote in a press release. "The dedication and devotion of the hard-working park rangers is worthy of much greater public recognition."

A graphic from the Thin Green Line Foundation shows how many rangers across the globe have lost their lives in the line of duty in the last decades.

Over the years, World Ranger Day has seen strong support from the likes of Jane Goodall and the Duke of Cambridge. Organisations such as the Thin Green Line Foundation (TGLF) and the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa (GRAA) are dedicated to providing the necessary training, equipment and critical care for the world's wildlife defenders. They encourage the rest of the globe to stand up for rangers and show their support as well.

"World Ranger Day celebrates rangers and the wonderful places they protect," Sean Willmore, founder and director of The Thin Green Line Foundation, and president of the International Ranger Federation said in a statement on Facebook. "And it's an important opportunity for us all to remember the vital and dangerous work rangers do. Let's stand with the world's rangers and offer our support to the people who make such a difference as protectors of wildlife and life itself."

Header image: Nick Castle