Rhino Conservation Awards: Game Rangers
The shortlisted finalists in the Game Rangers category of the Africa’s 2020 Rhino Conservation Awards are:
- Albert Smith – Working in the Kruger National Park, South Africa as Malelane Section Ranger for SANParks.
- Benson Kanyembo – Working in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia as Law Enforcement Advisor for Conservation South Luangwa.
- Don English – Working in the Kruger National Park, South Africa as Marula South/Intensive Protection Zone Regional Ranger for SANParks.
Benson is a Law Enforcement Advisor at Conservation South Luangwa (CSL) and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of CSL’s counter poaching support to Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) in the Luangwa Valley.
Benson leads a highly disciplined team of CSL scouts and has is always ready to introduce new technology to improve their operations. He also works closely with the K9 Unit and the DNPW to ensure the Wildlife Act is enforced and adhered to.
While Luangwa Valley has the second largest population of elephants and large carnivores in Zambia, it is closely positioned to porous borders, making it an appealing target for poachers and traffickers. Increasing human populations outside the park and scarce resources inside the park add to the many challenges Benson faces to conserve this protected area. Benson and his scouts also work hard to manage relationships and mitigate conflict with neighbouring communities when community members are arrested for poaching.
Despite these threats and challenges, elephant populations remain stable and lion and wild dog populations are at historical highs, largely because of the counter poaching efforts led by Benson.
Benson also leads the anti-snaring programmes, which have been extremely successful. It is said that without these efforts, under the guidance of Benson, it is likely that all wildlife would have declined severely with the onslaught of poaching over the past several years.
In 2019 hard work led to the arrest of 76 poachers and illegal traders and the confiscation of 400kgs of ivory. Benson is never deterred. His vision and ability to endure and prevail makes the future of conservation in Zambia that much more promising.
Don English is the Regional Ranger of the Marula South, otherwise known as the Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) of the Kruger National Park. He works to ensures the area integrity of approximately 426,663 hectares meaning he is responsible, alongside his ranger team, for the conservation and protection of most of the Kruger’s rhino population.
Don plans, co-ordinates, executes and participates in counter poaching operations to stem the rhino poaching crisis, always leading from the front. He is responsible for the management and well-being of 6 Section Rangers stations and their field ranger teams.
Don makes a special effort to motivate all sections to understand counter poaching operations and to be part of the solution. This was evident in that for the first time since 2007, there were no rhino recorded as poached for the IPZ during April 2020. Against all odds, through sheer tenacity and persistence and with the support of his ranger teams, Don has managed to lower rhino poaching activities year on year in this region.
Albert is the Section Ranger at the Malelane ranger post in the Kruger National Park. His responsibilities include, ensuring area integrity of the Malelane Section, which forms part of the Intensive Protection Zone in the KNP.
He plans, coordinates and executes counter poaching patrols and operations as well as sustaining deployments and patrols to ensure maximum area coverage and area integrity while making use of all available resources including a wide array of detection technology.
Albert manages the Section’s K-9 component and ensuring that they remain effective and abreast of continuously changing poacher tactics. Furthermore, Albert assists and oversees the capture and translocation of rhino as well as the capturing and treatment of injured rhino.
Through sheer tenacity, courage and strong leadership he managed to stem the tide in one of the worst hit sections by rhino poachers. To date, the Malelane section showed a massive decrease in rhino poaching activities year on year.
Albert single handily apprehended a group of armed rhino poachers, managing to arrest them all and recover the firearm. He received a KNP Bravery Award for this exceptional deed.
Albert is also very involved in the surrounding communities forging good relationships and encouraging their support of the ranger’s efforts to fight the rhino poaching. A phenomenal team player, he forms an integral part of the Region’s Ranger Corps, unselfishly assisting wherever and whenever he can regardless of the time of day or situation at hand.