World Ranger Day 2017

by CapeNature

It’s World Ranger Day on Monday, 31st July 2017! This day commemorates all the park and field rangers injured or killed around the world while protecting our natural heritage. It is also a celebration of their work and an acknowledgment of their ongoing service.

To mark World Ranger Day 2017, we spent some time chatting with three of CapeNature’s tireless field rangers.

First up is Mate Pertunia Modisha, a field ranger at Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve.

Q: Why were you interested in conservation? Please give a short background of yourself and how you got into this line of work.

A: I grew up in a village called Gamasemola in Limpopo which is about 70 km from Polokwane. My family has a small farm outside the village and I loved to visit it with my dad, who stimulated my interest in nature. I remember him pointing out a honeyeater bird, which he recognized by the sound it made. Because of its presence he knew that there would be bee hives around and said that we should be careful of bees. One day we were out walking in nature when we met someone who introduced himself to us as a field ranger of that area and I asked him about what he did. He said that he loved nature and was lucky enough to work in the natural environment and take care of plants and animals. From that moment I was interested in knowing more about how to become a field ranger. I researched what courses I could take and eventually I completed a National Diploma in Nature Conservation and a Btech Degree in Strategic Management at Tshwane University of Technology. I’m very interested in how animals and plants are able to adapt to all conditions and survive in the wild. I’m passionate about spreading the message of conservation and biodiversity awareness in the broader community.

Q: Please describe some of your everyday duties as a field ranger.

A: As a field ranger my day to day duties consists of assisting with tourism activities, fire management and suppression, environmental control duties, law enforcement (regular patrol), ecological monitoring and field surveys of alien vegetation. I’m also active in educating the community on environmental issues and I help with youth development.

Mate Pertunia Modisha

Q: Tell us about a dangerous, funny, or interesting incident that you encountered in the course of your work?

A: We are three field rangers in the reserve, and one day we were on patrol in the field. I saw a mountain adder on the path and my colleague who is very afraid of snakes failed to spot it. He very nearly stepped on it and when I shouted a warning he jumped high in the air as though he had just stepped on a trampoline. After that shock the hair on his arm was standing straight up and he had goosebumps all over.

Q: What advice would you give somebody who wants to become a field ranger but is unsure where and how to start?

A: The advice I will give is to go for it. Nature brings you close to so many fascinating and interesting creatures and plants. If you are able to complete a nature conservation diploma it will give you a great advantage and will allow you to pursue a career in conservation. Alternatively, you could do voluntary work in the private reserve to engage with nature and get more experience.

Q: If you weren’t a field ranger, what else would you have wanted to do?

A: I would stay within nature conservation as a conservation manager or environmental education officer.

Next, we spoke to Oom Gert Karelse, a field ranger at Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve.

Oom Gert Karelse

Q: Why were you interested in conservation? Please give a short background of yourself and how you got into this line of work.

A: I started in 1979 as a general worker and through hard work and perseverance I was promoted to a supervisory role. I applied for the field ranger position because of my passion and love for nature. I was confirmed in the post in 2001.

Q: Please describe some of your everyday duties as a field ranger.

A: My daily tasks are to carry out the instructions I receive from Reserve Management. I also need to be constantly on the lookout for any illegal activities on the reserve and in the mountain catchment area. I collect monthly State of Biodiversity (SOB) data and provide updates on plants and animals in the reserve.

Q: Can you name any dangerous/funny/interesting incidents or events you’ve encountered in the course of your work?

A: I remember the time we were trying to embank a river in the De Mond Nature Reserve in the heart of winter. It was raining heavily and the river was full. We wanted to build a bridge over the river and were packing sandbags to stabilise the embankment. The water was deep and freezing cold. When we climbed out we were shivering so much that we could hardly hold a mug of coffee or soup. We couldn’t even take a sip from the mug as the coffee was splashing allover because of the way we were shaking from the cold. In the end we just had to give up. Unfortunately we also couldn’t finish the project, the current was just too strong and the water too cold and deep.

Q: What advice would you give somebody who wants to become a field ranger but is unsure where and how to start?

A: I would encourage the youth to finish school and get a good education. If they love nature and are prepared to work hard, they can build a career in nature conservation.

Q: If you weren’t a field ranger, what else would you have wanted to do?

A: If I couldn’t do work as a field ranger, then I would have liked to have been a field guide.

Finally, we managed to stop field ranger Freddy Munnik, a field ranger at Vrolikjheid Nature Reserve just long enough to share some of his experiences with us.

Freddy Munnik

Q: Why were you interested in conservation? Please give a short background of yourself and how you got into this line of work.

A: My father and brother inspired me with their passion for the work they did in nature and that is where my love for nature came from.

Q: Please describe some of your everyday duties as a field ranger.

A: My daily duties as a field ranger include maintenance of the infrastructure like the bird hides, footpaths and roads in the area as well as observing, monitoring and recording plant and animal life in the reserve so that generations to come can get to experience these species. Field rangers also have to constantly be on the lookout for hazards and dangers like uncontrolled fires, poachers and illegal animal traps.

Q: Can you name any dangerous/funny/interesting incidents or events you’ve encountered in the course of your work?

A: A few years ago my colleague and I conducted a field inspection in Anysberg Nature Reserve and on the way back we experienced a tyre blowout on the Ouberg pass, just outside Montagu. We lost control of our vehicle which left the road and plunged 20 metres down the mountain. Fortunately the vehicle didn’t roll and my colleague and I were unhurt which was a miracle.

Q: What advice would you give somebody who wants to become a field ranger but is unsure where and how to start?

A: You need to love nature and have a passion for the environment and conservation. That attraction should start at school already with an interest in Life Sciences which can provide a sound foundation for a career as a field ranger or conservationist.

Q: If you weren’t a field ranger, what else would you have wanted to do?

A: If I didn’t become a field ranger I would have probably been a carpenter as I love to work with wood.

Happy World Ranger Day to all field and park rangers around South Africa and the world and thank you for your hard work and dedication to preserving the planet’s fauna and flora.

One Comment

  • Ismail Wambi

    August 3, 2017 9:00 am

    Johan Vaughan, Izak Lombard and Willem Fullard are the teachers I have ever had in my student year at Anyseberg. As for Oom Gert, it was nice to explore Vrolijkheid with him during the peak flower season of 2013. This was nice to read, and I am sure that many young conservationist feel indebted to all the field rangers and conservation managers who offered experience and invaluable life lessons. I was very fortunate to be at Anysberg during my training period, it is a year that I will never forget.

    Thanks.

    Rating: 5 / 5

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