All the respect in the world for the ‘thin green line’ on World Rangers’ Day

31 July 2018 - 08:00 By Nico Gous
The International Ranger Federation has revealed that Kruger National Park field ranger Respect Mathebula is the 269th ranger killed in Africa since 2012.
The International Ranger Federation has revealed that Kruger National Park field ranger Respect Mathebula is the 269th ranger killed in Africa since 2012.

Field ranger Respect Mathebula was out on patrol in the Kruger National Park when his unit came under attack by poachers. He was shot and‚ despite attempts to get him to hospital‚ he died on the same day on July 19.

He became the 269th field ranger killed in Africa since 2012.

This is according to the records from the International Ranger Federation (IRF) that collect data on those who died protecting Africa’s wildlife.

“At least 176 of these brave rangers have been gunned down by militia groups‚ unknown assailants or armed poachers working for multinational wildlife crime syndicates‚” non-profit organisation the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa (GRAA)‚ a member of the IRF, said to mark World Ranger Day on Tuesday.

Mathebula also became the first field ranger killed in the Kruger National Park in over 50 years and the 70th this year. 

“The murder of one of our rangers is an act of aggression by unscrupulous individuals and gangs‚” Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Saturday when she was paying her respects to Mathebula. “His death at the hands of alleged rhino poachers is an indication of the severity of the threat our rangers are faced with in a daily basis."

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)‚ Kenya‚ Nigeria‚ Cameroon‚ Uganda‚ Mali and South Africa accounted for almost four out of every five recorded ranger murders.

“Sadly‚ when one looks at the risks rangers are facing in Africa‚ it becomes clear that not enough is being done to support them‚” the GRAA added.

They said field rangers struggled with insufficient equipment‚ lack of skills‚ poor resources and facilities.

“These are the men and women who serve and protect our remaining wild places‚ where the remnants of Africa’s natural heritage can be found. They deserve so much more.”

The National Union of Public Service and Allied workers (Nupsaw) praised rangers who “dedicated their lives in protecting our heritage”.

“Many rangers were injured and others succumbed to death in the hands of poachers‚ while in the line of duty to protect our national assets‚” Nupsaw General Secretary Success Mataitsane said.

“Many rangers lose their lives while protecting our heritage‚ yet they have minimum protection from the government. A lot of campaigns are intended for awareness against rhino poaching and elephant ivory‚ and less so on awareness towards the protection of our rangers.”