Three Rwandan park rangers win continental accolades

Rwandans including Leonidas Mpumuje, Anthony Nzuki and Jean Nepomuscene Musekura are among the 50 park rangers to be recognised in this year’s African Rangers Awards slated scheduled for November 15, 2019 in Accra, Ghana.

Mpumuje is the head of Rhino Monitor of Akagera National Park where his colleague, Nzuki, is a ranger post leader. Musekura is a ranger in Volcanoes National Park.

The African Ranger Awards programme recognises park rangers for their extraordinary contribution towards protecting the continent’s wildlife and conservation areas.

Initiated in 2017 by Jack Ma, the Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group through the Paradise Foundation—an environmental conservation organisation—the annual event seeks to raise awareness in the world about the need to conserve Africa’s wildlife, emphasising the critical role that front-line rangers play in conservation.

The award aims to help stem the current decline in populations of Africa’s wildlife.

In 2016, some 82 per cent of the rangers in Africa faced mortal danger on the job while over 60 per cent were directly attacked by poachers, according to official data.

In 2015, at least 107 rangers were killed during their patrol. Between 2006 and 2016 over 1000 patrollers sacrificed their lives in the service of protecting wildlife.

For 2019 awards, an international panel of judges reviewed 115 nominees from 17 African countries, and the award criteria included the nominee’s dedication, contribution, threats and challenges overcome as well as leadership and inspiration.

“I am deeply moved and inspired by the rangers’ sacrifices. We hope more people will pay attention to rangers, wildlife preservation, and the preservation of our natural environment.” Jack Ma said in a statement.

Belise Kariza, the Chief Tourism Officer at Rwanda Development Board, rangers’ dedication plays a vital role in the country’s progress towards sustainable tourism.

“Without the hard work and dedication that our rangers show, the positive progress that Rwanda has shown both in conversation and sustainable tourism would be impossible,” she said. “They are at the forefront of conservation and that is why we appreciate the Paradise Foundation for recognizing African rangers and their important role.”