Target: Emmanuel de Merode, Head Warden of Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Goal: Praise the courageous rangers who risk their lives to stop the slaughter of animals by poachers
The seemingly endless horrors of animal poaching are probably too awful for most people to conceive of. Yet wildlife rangers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park take on these horrors and more every day. Some have witnessed their own comrade be tortured by poachers right before their eyes. Confronting disturbing scenes of poached carcasses on a regular basis, rangers have also seen wounded rhinos and elephants die as they watched, helpless to save the animals.
Most rangers endure incredibly harsh physical conditions, patrolling difficult terrain day and night often with inadequate equipment or pay, according to a report in National Geographic. In many communities rangers are respected for their dedication and leadership. Some were even poachers themselves before committing to animal conservation. Rangers also make formidable enemies when they become involved in anti-poaching efforts, which in the eyes of poaching kingpins can make them not just meddlers but targets.
Under constant threat of attack the rangers must only fire in self-defense, forced to hold back until poachers initiate violence. This intense pressure to restrain themselves puts rangers and families on edge almost twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Living with this fear can exert a severe psychological toll on many rangers. A psychologist caring for rangers who have dealt directly with poachers worries that the burden is actually too great for rangers to bear. She asserts that greater attention must be paid to these individuals, trained to protect animals and not necessarily to kill, from succumbing to the strain themselves. In some South African parks rangers are required to receive counseling after they clash with poachers.
Please voice your much-needed support for the wildlife rangers sacrificing their safety and comfort on the front lines against poaching.
Dear Mr. de Merode,
I am writing to applaud your courageous efforts to combat poaching in Virunga National Park. Having survived an attack by poachers yourself, you know all too well the dangers you and your comrades face each day of patrol. In spite of the brutality of the work, which you undertake with inadequate equipment and pay, you continue to serve each other and the greater global community valiantly, with unbelievable dedication and resilience.
As someone who believes firmly in the importance of wildlife conservation, I write to give you my support and to express my gratitude for the incalculable service and incredible inspiration you provide us all. May you and your comrades return to your families safe and sound with each new day.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Rommel Santor via Neatorama