Message of CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero for World Ranger Day 2020

World Ranger Day 2020

Message from CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero

31 July 2020

On World Ranger Day 2020, let us show our support for those who guard our planet’s wildlife and biodiversity.

World Ranger Day is a day to honor the extraordinary work, courage and dedication of those who are on the front lines of conservation efforts in our valuable ecosystems and in the struggle against wildlife crime.

We are fortunate to be able to rely on these courageous women and men who heed the call of nature and serve as the guardians of rainforests, reserves or national parks in every corner of the planet, under any climate or circumstance.

Their work is truly vast: from keeping a close eye on critically endangered species, averting and minimizing human-animal conflicts in areas where people share the land with local fauna, to deterring or tracking down would-be poachers, rangers contribute to the well-being of entire ecosystems and the well-being of the people and wildlife they sustain.

This is no easy task. It is a truly difficult and dangerous one. While it can be hazardous to work so close to nature, danger often comes from humans. For their role in combating poaching and other forms of wildlife crime, and because of their proximity to various conflict-prone areas harboring coveted species and resources, over 800 rangers have been killed in the course of their duties in the last decade. The tragedy that hit Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo last April, which resulted in the killing of 13 rangers, is the most recent in a series of violent incidents that continue to show the inherent danger of this profession.

Achieving the objectives of the Convention heavily depends on the work of rangers. Naturally, they shoulder much of the efforts in the struggle against wildlife crime and poaching. They also embody the benefits of community-led conservation: as many of them are members of the communities that live closest to the ecosystems they guard, rangers are key to establishing a cohabitation model that is beneficial to both species and the people who rely on nature for their livelihoods. Moreover, they are the eyes on the ground for the Convention Parties and the Secretariat and are essential to the gathering of data, primary evidence and testimonials.

CITES Parties are keenly aware of the role of rangers. The Convention has sought to provide support in the form of training and capacity-building, through programmes like the CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE), which has worked to strengthen individual and institutional capacity among rangers in Asian and African elephant range States. CITES Parties also discussed the need to scale-up efforts to improve the working conditions of rangers at the eighteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties in August 2019.

And now, the current COVID-19 pandemic has added to the difficulties faced by rangers, forcing some range States to temporarily suspend or limit various wildlife management activities, which has raised fears that poachers and criminal groups might profit from this.

But the pandemic has also awakened a momentous drive among people, governments and organizations everywhere to mend our relationship with nature. To recover from this crisis, and reduce the risk of future ones, we must seek to promote a more sustainable model for how we interact with nature. Rangers must be a key element of that effort: as custodians of precious and vulnerable ecosystems and essential workers of conservation, we must support their work so that they help us Build Back Better.

On this World Ranger Day, we call on people and governments everywhere to uplift and reward these essential workers, these guardians of nature.