The illegal wildlife trade and poaching may be something we feel like we hear about a lot. Yet, as much as we know it’s a problem, it still seems like we aren’t hearing it enough. In 2011, ivory estimated to weigh more than 23 metric tons was seized. This would have represented 2,500 elephants being killed. On average, a rhino is poached every 10 hours across Africa. While elephants, giraffes, and gorillas are part of the big names in the animal world that are being talked about and need our attention, there are also animals like the pangolin, snow leopard, and Saiga antelope that are in a massive decline and will disappear altogether if something is not done.
Thankfully, there are organizations like the Global Conservation Force (GCF) that are dedicated to saving wildlife. They are working across the field to educate and join with local communities to inspire the importance of conservation efforts and saving species, but one of their biggest projects and efforts is going towards training and developing teams of anti-poaching rangers who are in the field everyday risking their lives to stop poachers and animal trafficking before it is too late.
Underrated Wildlife Heroes
Rangers are called many different names, but their main role is the same across the field, they work to protect the natural world. When most people in the United States hear someone is a ranger, they think of men and women with tall hats patrolling our national forests, and we do have those and they play an important role in preserving and saving the limited protected lands we have left. However, there are also rangers patrolling less serene environments that are often met with aggressive retaliation while doing their job.
Depending on their location, a rangers job includes patrolling protected areas, monitoring wildlife, preventing poaching, engaging local communities in conservation, helping communities resolve human-wildlife conflicts, and assisting with tourism. And it is not easy. They can be working in extremely remote locations for weeks or even months away from their family, loved ones, and comforts of home.
Did we mention it was dangerous? Wildlife trafficking is a billions of dollars industry with many ruthless people trying to steal and kill wildlife and not caring about who gets in their way. In fact, more than 1,000 rangers have lost their lives, with many more than that being injured, over the last 10 years while doing their job. Just in the last 12 months, a recorded 27 rangers have been killed in the line of duty just in Africa, with nearly 80% of them being killed by poachers.
Many governments and countries who rely heavily on rangers lack funding, resources, training, and proper equipment to successfully set up these people who are dedicating their lives to protecting wildlife and lands, and that is where the Global Conservation Force (GCF) is helping to step in.
Stepping in to Save Species
Founded in 2014 by Mike Veale, GCF has global campaigns across the world, from Grenada to Sumatra, with the goal to get people involved no matter where they live. They work hands-on in the field to gain insight directly from the places they are working at, educate and raise awareness about the value of wildlife and sustainability, and training anti poaching units, or APUs, including providing the necessary gear and cutting edge technology they will need to perform their roles safely and efficiently.
Endangered Species Saving Teams
A big part of GCF and how they are helping to improve the safety and success of their rangers, is teaming them up with a four-legged partner, an anti-poaching K9. According to the South African Wildlife College’s counter-poaching data, rangers who have a K9 partner and asset have an apprehension rate of 54% compared to 3-5% when responding alone. With their amazing sense of smell and heightened senses, these dogs are being trained to help track and apprehend poachers, as well as detect gun oil, pangolin scales, rhino horn, and ivory. Each ranger also goes through their own specialty training and certification to ensure they will be able to handle and make a good team with their K9 partner, and provide all the proper food, housing, vet care, and continued training and downtime each dog needs.
On the Ground Around the World
The team at GCF is more than just people in an office, they are on the field actively working to help learn and solve wildlife problems. The Australian bushfires have destroyed 12 million acres of land, and an estimated 1 billion animals. Chris Lauren, GCF’s Australia-based Field Medic Trainer for Anti-Poaching Units, is leading the Shane Hill Wildlife Project in coastal New South Wales. There they are working to construct and install feed stations, water fountains, and ongoing food supply to help provide nourishment for the species whose homes have been affected by the fires, along with supporting local Australian organizations dedicated to the rehabilitation and rescue of wildlife and the restoration of lost habitat. Their newest project is Operation Kenya, where they will train and implement a new community-based anti-poaching ranger team in eastern Kenya. This ranger team will not only help protect a rare ecosystems that are home to endangered species such as painted dogs, pangolins, primates, and so much more, they will also be helping to bring stability to a community where there is no law enforcement and serve as a local community and outreach center.
To be able to continue to learn, train, project, and save crucial ecosystems and species, and support and work alongside communities, Global Conservation Force needs the support of people hoping to join in on the fight to make a difference.
Fight Poaching. Fight Extinction.
“Giraffe populations are down by 40% in the last 15 years. Lions have gone from a population of 450,000 in the 1940s to approximately 20,000 today. For some species of Vultures there has been a decline of 97%.” - Global Conservation Force.
Adopt a Ranger
Anti-poaching rangers work on the frontlines to protect a variety of species and are specially trained in tactical defense to find poachers and stop them. By choosing to adopt one of the rangers, you are helping to provide things such as anti-poaching gear, canine unit sponsors, and training courses to help better prepare the rangers for their missions. You can even adopt an anti-poaching K9 and receive a picture of the puppies and dogs in the field, along with quarterly updates on how they are doing.
Train to Train the Future
Be a part of GCF’s new professional development program where you spend time hand ons in the field learning everything that goes into training the amazing anti-poaching K9s and handlers to prepare them to dedicate themselves to saving endangered species. You will be provided shared housing as you spend anywhere for 2 weeks to 3 months in South Africa immersing yourself in the training, education, and daily operations. See the brochure here.
Global Conservation Force puts on events throughout the year to help spread awareness and give people the opportunity to support wildlife conservation right from your own home. This World Rhino Day you can help save rhinos by joining the Ubunto Rhino Run - A Virtual Race Against Extinction. You can walk, run, or ride at your own pace for 5 minutes, 5K or 5 miles. Document and share with your friends and family and help support conservation emergency food response programs and anti-poaching operations. You can also participate in the 5th Annual Wildlife Conservation Gala that will be hosted as both a virtual and physical event to follow CDC guidelines. This year we fundraising focus is for Animals Saving Animals, Anti Poaching Ranger Training, and Community Based Conservation Efforts.
The Global Conservation Force is dedicated to educating, organizing, and fighting to save rare and important habitats and species to ensure they are around in the future. They believe education is the key to environmental protection, and no matter where we are or how we live, we can all be a part of making a difference. Check out their YouTube to see more footage of the work they are doing, grab some of their awesome merchandise in their online store that also supports their conservation efforts, and learn how you too can join the fight to save elephants, rhinos, pangolins, and so many more at globalconservationforce.org.
Let us know what you think of the amazing work GCF is doing and what your favorite species of African wildlife is in the comments below.