World Ranger Day 2019 – we acknowledge and remember all rangers

by CapeNature

World Ranger Day is commemorated on 31 July every year when we honour all park and field rangers around the world who protect our natural heritage for the future generations to come. It is an acknowledgement of hard work and a note of thanks for their ongoing service.  On this day, we also remember the rangers who were injured or killed in the line of duty.

To mark World Ranger Day 2019, we spent some time chatting with three of CapeNature’s tireless field rangers.

First up is 28-year old Hilton Bocks, a field ranger at Knersvlakte Nature Reserve.

Q: Which Nature Reserve are you based at and what makes your reserve special?

A: Knersvlakte Nature Reserve. Knersvlakte is a unique Reserve within the Succulent Karoo that not only speaks to botanists, but to your sense of well-being. The Succulent Karoo is one of the biological wonders of the world, with unrivaled levels of diversity and endemism for an arid area. For me, the quartz patches and the special plants that you find when you take the time to look at the ground is what makes this reserve special. It is not just plants, but the well-adapted fauna that you find within this area.

Q: What inspired you to become a ranger?

A: I started off in the Agricultural Field and it quickly became apparent to me that we need to look after our environment, not just for the short term, but far into the future. I wanted to be a part of making a difference, through getting to know the environment and in my current post, I was exposed to botany, which has peaked my interest. I now try to teach others around me how fantastic this Succulent Karoo area is, and that you will see things, if you just look.

Q: Is the job everything you expected it to be?

A: Yes. There are a lot of challenges, but I enjoy the aspects that I am exposed to. The Knersvlakte distances also make for a challenge, as there are vast areas without cell phone coverage, or radio coverage, so to operate in such an environment is difficult. Law enforcement is also a huge challenge, as we are in an area where specialist fauna and flora is found, and a huge market exists for stolen fauna and flora. We work hard to minimise the types and quantities of illegal activities in our area.

Q: What was your biggest achievement during your time as a ranger?

A: I received a distinction (92%) for the Field Ranger course (National Certificate: Nature Conservation: Resource Guardianship) I completed in 2018.

Next, we spoke to Ryan Jack, a 34-year old field ranger at Hottentots-Holland Nature Reserve.

Q: Which Nature Reserve are you based at and what makes your reserve special?

A: Hottentots-Holland Nature Reserve. The reserve forms part of the Boland Mountain Complex and is a declared World Heritage Site. It plays an important role in the conservation of mountain fynbos with approximately 110 bird species and approximately 1300 flora species, several of which are rare, endemic or endangered. The reserve activities includes a range of activities including hiking, mountain biking, kloofing and zip lining. Some of the big events such as the Epic and the Wines to Whales traverse the reserve. The reserve is also considered a “water factory” for the Western Cape and feed 3 of the 5 critical water supply dams.

Q: What inspired you to become a ranger?

A: Learning about nature when I joined the eco-club in primary school, this developed my interest in my career and passion. – Is the job everything you expected it to be? Everything and more. From primary school I was only exposed to the basic ideas and concepts of conservation while working in the field it opened my eyes to the relevant legislation and ecological consequences of human actions. Wildlands firefighting is also something I never associated with Nature Conservation but has grown to be one of my key responsibilities and something I’ve become very passionate about.

Q: What are some of the challenges you deal with in your daily work?

A: These vary from season to season, but include high intensity fires during summer season, which often means quite a bit of time away from home, climbing mountains and fighting fires, side by side with fireman from different reserves and fire stations. As a ranger, the job is to protect the environment and to ensure that it is a healthy system, this sometimes sounds easier than it is.

Q: What was the biggest achievement during your time as a ranger?

A: I was selected to study further within CapeNature (NQF level 5) and spent time in Kruger National Park for nine months. I also represented CapeNature at a conference in Botswana regarding the illegal international trade of fauna and flora.

Finally, we spoke to Natasha Goliath, a 30-year old field ranger at Limietberg Nature Reserve.

Q: Which Nature Reserve are you based at and what makes your reserve special?

A: I’ve been at Limietberg Nature Reserve for the past seven years . What makes my reserve so special is the fact that my day to day responsibilities are so diverse.  My work allows me to be outdoors most of the time, seeing mountain scenery that some people will never see in their lifetime. I consider myself blessed.

Q: What inspired you to become a ranger?

A: It’s funny in what direction life takes you sometimes. While growing up I always wanted to be a social worker, I never thought about conservation as a career. In 2008 I applied for the youth service programme learnership, I was accepted as a participant, got exposed to conservation and immediately developed a passion for nature.

Q: Is the job everything you expected it to be?

A: It is more than what I expected because it is diverse and what I do have such a crucial role in achieving the organisation’s vision and  mission.

Q: What was the biggest achievement during your time as a ranger?

A: Being appointed as a quality controller enabled me to study further, completing qualifications in Human Resource Management, Introduction to Project Management and commencing  this semester with a qualification in Safety Management.

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

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