‘Boots on the ground’ prepare for a 200-mile journey for urgent conservation initiatives’
NAIROBI, Kenya – Africa is losing wildlife at an unprecedented rate. The latest government figures illustrate that Kenya lost over 1,000 elephants in 2012, whilst Tanzanian official figures stood at a shocking 10,000.
Lions were not spared either; with an estimated loss of over 120 lions in Tanzania and over 50 lions in Kenya due to poisoning and through various causes. With a total estimated population of less than 1,800 lions remaining in the region, there is huge cause for concern over the survival of the ‘King of the Jungle’.
In South Africa, the war on poaching is no different. At least 277 rhino have been poached this year alone and these staggering figures will not drop without increased, global and local awareness and immediate action.
“Our wildlife is officially on the edge of extinction. We can no longer afford to allow this scale of slaughter to continue as we go about our daily lives. If we do, we will have failed to protect our natural inheritance for generations to come; robbed it of vital resources and left a blank future devoid of natural splendor.” Says Raabia Hawa, founder of the ‘Walk with Rangers’ initiative.
‘Walk with Rangers’ will see local Kenyans and Tanzanians join hands with concerned citizens from around the world including the U.S, Britain, Italy, South Africa, Australia and Algeria to engage in a unique experience on the ground. They will collaborate to complete an arduous 200 mile (350 km) walk from Tanzania to Kenya to raise awareness and funds for critical conservation projects in the two host countries with support from the governments and authorities involved. The walk will be flagged off and joined thereafter by Hon. Lazaro Nyalandu, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism in Tanzania; and will be supported through its tenure by the Big Life Foundation, Honeyguide Foundation, Wildlife Works, Tanzania National Parks and the Kenya Wildlife Service.
“We look forward to walking in solidarity on the Walk With Rangers as we strive for the protection of our key species.” Said Hon. Nyalandu.
On this walk, Moses Sinkoi, Officer-in- Command of the Olgulului Group Ranch (under Big Life Foundation), will join Raabia Hawa (an honorary KWS Ranger). She will also be joined by Ijema Funan, a community scout from Wildlife Works, who was shot by poachers whilst leading an operation in Tsavo Conservation Area in January 2012. “Ijema is an inspiration to so many of us, he suffered through the worst possible scenario in our line of work, and still came back to the frontlines. He is testament to the commitment and dedication of rangers around the world who endure so much for the sake of the greater good of this planet. As for Abdi; our friend, comrade and brother, he will never be forgotten and we will remember him and all the other fallen heroes with every step we take.” Says Raabia.
Speaking about this massive initiative for conservation, Operations Director of Big Life Foundation, Richard Bonham adds, “Game rangers are the unsung heroes in the fight to save wildlife. Big Life sees the role of community game rangers in conservation going forward, as it becomes more and more vital. Raabia’s initiative is a great platform, not only to draw attention to the plight Kenya & Tanzania’s wildlife is facing, but also to draw attention to the challenges these rangers face on a daily basis.”
Richard’s Tanzanian counterpart, Damian Bell, views the coming year as vital in doing everything possible to try and turn the tide against the wildlife poaching onslaught. “We are running out of time, and need to work as one with across-section of partners around the world to address the illicit wildlife trade at all its complex levels. But it starts here with rangers on the ground in East Africa,” says Damian, who runs both Big Life Tanzania and its partnering organization, Honeyguide Foundation.
The Walk With Rangers begins on the 12th of June in Arusha, Tanzania and is set to finish with a symbolic walk into Nairobi city (in Kenya) on the 28th June 2014.
The initiative has garnered the support of key members of the business fraternity in Kenya and Tanzania, who have offered support in kind, and funds for the projects. Walk With Rangers needs to raise at least $250,000 to install an anti poaching ground support unit and a mobile veterinary unit. The cost will cater for the operations of these vital units for one year and support from all businesses, hoteliers and corporate are welcomed as the walkers gear up for the Great Trek to save Africa’s wildlife, one step at a time.
To learn more about the Walk With Rangers please visit www.walkwithrangers.com
You can also learn more about Big Life Foundation and how its presence with rangers (in the area’s mentioned) has significantly reduced poaching in the region. Visit: http://www.biglife.org
About Walk With Rangers
The walk is aimed not only at raising awareness on the challenges faced by wildlife rangers, but also as a fundraising initiative to support these teams, by establishing a critical project in each one of the two countries involved (Kenya and Tanzania).
•Kenya: This project is critical in ensuring the survival of a niche population of elephant and lions under threat from human settlement encroachment, paired with slash and burn farming in a largely ignored and remote area of Kenya’s coast. This project will facilitate badly needed anti-poaching operations in the region, by enabling a ground support unit for the resident team of community scouts.
•Tanzania: This project aims to be a collaborative effort with the Tanzanian authorities; committed to initiating the installation of a vital mobile veterinary unit, to enable curative measures for elephants and other wildlife injured by poachers – thus giving them a second chance of life.
While establishing short-term and immediate solutions for wildlife; Walk With Rangers firmly believes that those on the frontline protecting wildlife are key to the survival of these endangered species. In noting so, we have made it a priority to ensure that as many rangers and community scouts are sufficiently supported, to boost their commitment to conservation efforts.
Walk With Rangers has as a result, initiated a long-term assembly project, pooling and supplying vital gear and resources to rangers and community scouts – predominantly in remote and largely isolated areas. It is vital we recognize the daily threat these rangers and scouts face, paired with harsh living conditions. They often have minimal access to basic necessities such as clean drinking water, which we so easily take for granted. Very often, scouts and rangers are underpaid and ill equipped, which impairs their work and threatens their safety in the field. Walk With Rangers is slowly but surely changing this by empowering these brave and dedicated men with better equipment.