The makings of field rangers in Limpopo province: An exploratory ethno-perceptive study
Field rangers are the first and last line of defense in environmental protection, working on the ground to ensure the integrity of conservation areas. In the previous decade, the ranger’s responsibilities have shifted from a conservation-based outcome to para-militarization in protecting high-value species, such as the rhino. Increasingly, rangers are drawn into law enforcement responsibilities and away from the breadth of other duties relating to biodiversity and conservation. Recruits often originate from communities living around protected areas, lacking alternate employment opportunities. Rangers often live among those connected to transnational wildlife trafficking networks, making them targets for intimidation and corruption. This further contributes to the social and familial pressures rangers face from hostile or co-opted community members involved in poaching or actively supporting poaching networks. Due to these circumstances, rangers may place their lives at risk daily in carrying out their work and may face increasingly significant challenges. Although some literature is available on rangers’ activities in preserving biodiversity globally, little is known about the rangers themselves. This narrative is not an exhaustive work on them but instead offers a glimpse, lifting the veil for the reader to see and experience a moment in the lives of the rangers. The research focuses not on military perspectives but on the human dimension behind firearms and uniforms.