Guest blog by friend and supporter of Wildlife Alliance, Rick Parmer. Rick and Nick Marx, Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife Programs Director attended the 8th World Ranger Congress in May at Estes Park, Colorado. Below, Rick shares with us his personal account from that trip.
The wind was bracing cold and the flags of 53 countries were flapping in the breeze. More than 60 names were being read of international park rangers killed in the line of duty since the last World Ranger Congress in Tanzania three years ago. It was a solemn and profound affair as 318 delegates gathered outdoors in Rocky Mountain National Park for this opening ceremony and triennial global gathering of mostly field operation park rangers. I was a representative of the California delegation having served as a past president of the California State Park Rangers Association. My mother, Lorraine, has been a supporter of Wildlife Alliance and, in particular, the program at Phnom Tamao, for more than a decade. We felt that the ranger and wildlife rescue work Wildlife Alliance does in Cambodia is cutting edge and worthy of an international stage, especially for fellow rangers from Africa, Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. So I contacted Chloe and she in turn contacted Suwanna, to see if there was interest in making a presentation and learning from other anti-poaching efforts around the world.
To me and my mother's delight, I was given a green light to submit a draft proposal on behalf of Wildlife Alliance that was eventually accepted by the Program selection committee. Then I worked with Nick Marx, Director of Wildlife Rescue and Care, who developed an excellent presentation on the wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, release program and how the community rangers (Community Anti-poaching Unit-CAPU) work in prevention and education to make it even more effective. He also covered the Cardamom enforcement rangers and eco-lodge program. Almost 50 rangers from Africa, India, South America, Europe, Australia and the United States attended Nick's session. Sophany, the CAPU supervisor, was unable to attend due to work commitments in Cambodia, but the next World Ranger Congress is in Nepal in 2019, so I hope he will be able to attend and present the progress made up to that time.
Some Congress highlights: Nick connected with potential new supporters, and other NGO and government representatives working in Cambodia. There were presentations on anti-poaching programs in Africa and India that may have relevance to Wildlife Alliance efforts in Cambodia. On a sobering note, the wild animal parts trade has increased over the past decade in many places, particularly Africa (ivory) and India (tigers) and made anti-poaching ranger work more dangerous. Black market demand for these wild animal products is on the rise, especially in Asia. On the positive side, rangers are now seen as having a crucial role in preserving and protecting both habitat and animals. Much of past international funding has gone into creating protected areas, scientific research, and monitoring of wild populations. Now there is recognition that the training, adequate pay, equipment, and support of rangers is crucial to maintaining wild populations and movement corridors. The International Ranger Federation and the associated Thin Green Line foundation are leading the way in this global effort. The Thin Green Line focuses much of its support for surviving family members of rangers killed or disabled in action. Most governments do not pay adequate survivor benefits to sustain these families who have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of worldwide wildlife conservation. My deepest thanks to Nick, Suwanna, and the development staff who made the participation at the World Ranger Congress possible.