Elite Zimbabwean field rangers competed for the third consecutive year in the 2022 edition of the Tusk Wildlife Ranger Challenge, which brought together over 100 ranger organizations from more than 20 African countries Wildlife Ranger Challenge 21km Half Marathon over the weekend.
The Conservative and Wildlife Fund (CWF) and Painted Dog Conservation have joined rangers in the Pan-African Wildlife Ranger Challenge with the ultimate goal of raising funds to support thousands of their local colleagues.
All participating teams completed the grueling half marathon race with a weight equivalent to an average fully packed check-in suitcase (22 kg).
In a world first, the event also witnessed an elite team of four rangers attempting to set the fastest known time for a half marathon while carrying 22kg. The team consisted of the strongest athletes of the two previous years.
“We are proud to support the Wildlife Ranger Challenge in its third year, a vital event that highlights the incredible efforts of rangers across Africa and raises vital funds to support their livelihoods, the wildlife sanctuaries they live in and the iconic wildlife they work so hard to protect. It was a personal pleasure to meet dozens of rangers in Kenya last year – true local heroes. Without their daily dedication, wildlife in the region and across Africa would not survive,” said Mark Scheinberg, founder of the Scheinberg Relief Fund.
The challenge, which sees conservationists racing through Africa’s protected areas, aims to build on the last two years of fundraising which has raised more than £10m to date.
The common drive that united them was to raise vital funds for frontline conservation efforts at a time when resources are scarcer than ever.
All too often, rangers work in poor and dangerous working conditions. The lack of resources is compounded by extremely dangerous working conditions with all too frequent threats, violence, injuries and illnesses.
Up to 70 percent of rangers surveyed by WWF have contracted malaria within 12 months, and over 40 percent have received threats from community members. Tragically, as reflected in the , a number of rangers are paying the ultimate price roll of honor screened during the annual Tusk Conservation Awards.
“I’m proud to be part of the all-star team representing the Wildlife Ranger Challenge at the African Ranger Congress this week. My work as a ranger is complex and varied. While we are often seen as working exclusively on site, we recognize the importance of engaging local communities in conservation through development, education and advocacy. I hope the team’s race on September 17 helps highlight the critical work of my colleagues across Africa who stand between wildlife and extinction,” said George Kamasiai, team commander, anti-poaching unit, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
The Wildlife Ranger Challenge comes into play to alleviate current challenges and offer support by raising vital donations that expand access to essential equipment, enhanced training and conservation. The Challenge also plays a catalytic role needed for the development of the ranger profession by increasing recognition of the critical role that rangers play
George Kamasiai, Anti-Poaching Unit Team Commander, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy: Bear Grylls, Adventurer and Tusk Ambassador says: “The time achieved by the all-star team at Kasane is exceptional and reflects the exceptional caliber of the people working on the front lines in Africa’s protected areas. Despite tremendous challenges, the rangers continue to go above and beyond and could no longer deserve our support.”
The Wildlife Ranger Challenge brings the vital work of rangers to the fore by providing an opportunity to generate important funding for the men and women who work on the front lines of conservation.
The campaign has so far supported over 9,000 rangers in 24 African countries and has become a stepping stone from which to recognize and develop the full ranger profession.