Vusi Kubeka was killed by a lion in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. Thembisile Mchunu was crushed and killed by an elephant in the same park a few months later.
In Rwanda, Krisztián Gyöngyi was killed by a rhino and David Kirocho was shot dead by cattle-rustlers in Kenya.
In Congo, Bwambale Nyamikenge drowned after a boating accident, and Jacob Phiri drowned in a similar accident in Zambia.
The list goes on… death in forest fires, helicopter crashes or skirmishes with armed poachers and militia groups.
According to the 2017 Game Rangers Roll of Honour, at least 55 game rangers and other wildlife workers have died in the last twelve months in Africa.
In a message to commemorate World Ranger Day on Monday, International Ranger Federation (IRF) president Sean Willmore said at least 105 rangers had died in the line of duty worldwide over the last year.
Of these, 42% were killed by poachers or militia groups, 47% in work-related accidents, and 11% by the very animals they were trying to protect.
Nearly half died in Africa, about 44% in Asia and about 11% in North America, South America or Europe.
“Of course, these statistics represent so much more than just numbers, percentages and regions. Behind each is a name, a story, a family, a tale of bravery and loss. This is the immense price many rangers have paid to protect wildlife, culture, communities and this very world we live in,” said Willmore.
‘Bravery, resilience and dedication’
Echoing his message, the Game Rangers Association of Africa said rangers across the world were at increasing risks of life threatening encounters.
“We thank our rangers who continue to serve conservation with such vigour, bravery, resilience and dedication and pay tribute to our fallen comrades. We will remember them.”
The association said a recent study by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) found that many rangers were not getting the support they needed.
In Africa, 40% of those surveyed were not covered by health insurance, 50% had no life insurance and 60% had no long-term disability insurance.
To support their crucial work, the association recently launched a new Safe Ranger Project in conjunction with MedWise Safety Services to trains rangers in the necessary practical skills needed to perform first aid in remote areas.
This project recognises that if a ranger is wounded in the line of duty, it is often the minutes immediately after the incident that are most important. Knowing how to stabilise a trauma emergency can save a person’s life.
“The Game Rangers Association of Africa also recognises that for rangers to confidently perform their duties in the field, they need adequate insurance protection, knowing that if they are wounded or killed in the line of duty that they or their families will receive adequate support.
“There is a concern that under current circumstances, we cannot afford rangers to have this important issue neglected. It could reduce their focus and impact on decision-making which can put themselves, their team and wildlife at risk.”
With this in mind, the association was partnering with SATIB Insurance Brokers to offering insurance 24 hour insurance cover across Africa, even when rangers are off duty.
“We cannot guarantee the work of rangers will become less dangerous, but with this new Ranger Insurance product we hope to add to rangers’ confidence and morale, providing them with the necessary protection to ensure they and their families are looked after, should something happen to them whilst performing their noble work.”
The association said the initial target was to ensure that 1000 rangers are covered by this insurance scheme in the coming months, which was immediately available to provide cover for rangers in Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The association said an annual premium of $302 could ensure cover of approximately $20 000 to ranger’s families should they be killed in the line of duty during an anti-poaching activity.
“We are calling on employers, non-government organisations and individuals to support rangers by sponsoring their premiums.”