Game Rangers in Africa join conservation organizations because they love and cherish the environment. The escalating anti-poaching #War is taking them beyond the call of duty into the frontlines of death and destruction.
The Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA) is a non-profit organization that was formed in 1970. They provide “support and representation” for game rangers who work across the continent. They believe that the survival of Africa’s wilderness and species is reliant on the “expertise, ethics and motivation” of those rangers who protect and conserve wildlife on the ground.
As the anti-poaching war escalates, the GRAA has seen a disturbing rise in rangers who are showing signs of stress trauma. Long gone are the days when a ranger had the luxury of focusing on management goals and biodiversity. Today, rangers are pushed to the limit as they deal with poachers who try to kill them and #Animals that are slaughtered, butchered and maimed by poachers.
Tim Snow, executive member of the GRAA and the Wildlife Poisoning Prevention and Conflict Resolution said that it is very hard to deal with death all the time and that “even a message of support on a bad day can go a long way to help”.
In 2014, National Geographic quoted Sean Willmore, president of the International Ranger Federation, as saying that "Worldwide, about two rangers are killed every week.” Since then the numbers have probably risen.
Rangers are not soldiers, and their terms of engagement do not involve fighting enemy combatants. They do not always have a free hand to go out and hunt to kill poachers, but the poachers can ambush and shoot rangers and do so with impunity. Rangers who fire back in self-defense often have to come under fire before they can act.
The trauma of fighting a relentless war for wildlife is taking its toll on the well-being of many rangers. The GRAA have started a Game Ranger Well-Being Project to try to assist them. “Incidents of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress disorder and burnout fatigue” plague many of the rangers.
The problem has become so acute that the GRAA is now working with “leading emotional well-being experts,” to try to address the issue. Relevant support is essential for those rangers who live on the front line of the wildlife war on a daily basis.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a well-recognized form of stress that arises from terrifying experiences, which can include facing death or being in harm’s way over sustained periods.