Conservation: African rangers feted

Saturday August 11 2018

African Rangers Awards

Winners at the African Rangers Awards in Cape Town, South Africa on August 7, 2018. PHOTO | COURTESY OF PARADISE FOUNDATION 

By SUSAN MUUMBI
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Some 50 rangers working in 17 countries across Africa won the inaugural African Ranger Awards, which were given out on August 7.

The awards will be given annually for the next 10 years by the Alibaba Foundation and the Paradise Foundation, a Chinese not-for-profit environmental conservation organisation.

At the ceremony held in Cape Town on Tuesday, Alibaba founder Jack Ma said, “Wildlife rangers are Africa's heroes not just because they protect its endangered species but because in turn that protects jobs and the economy.”

The winners included Asha Mnkeni, the first female ranger employed by Tanzania's National Parks Service, Craig Williams, who helped reduce rhino poaching in South Africa by 20 per cent, Jeneria Lekilelei, a Kenyan herdsmen working with his peers to persuade them not to kill lions, and
Nanyuki Lapalee, a Kenyan former poacher now using his bush skills for conservation, and working to reform other poachers.

Another winner was Walter Odokorwot, a Uganda community conservation warden at the Kidepo Valley Conservation Area. He is attached to the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Odokorwot devised and carried out a successful human-wildlife conflict strategy in Murchison Falls National Park.

Eleven of the winning rangers attended the event.

The rangers work in dangerous conditions, often far from their families and without the necessary resources.

Mugaruka Takembo, a winning ranger working in Upemba and Kundelungu National Park Complex in the DRC, described being captured and tortured during the course of his work.

“There is danger, and there is corruption; there is disappointment, but there is also hope,” he said.

Mnkeni talked about following her father in his profession as a wildlife ranger. “When I was a child, he showed me a