Over one thousand rangers of Thailand’s national parks gathered in a ceremony today at Khao Yai National Park to mark World Ranger Day. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) host the annual event attended by senior government agency representatives and the conservation NGOs who work with Thailand’s rangers to protect Thailand’s natural heritage.
Today, there are 28,000 rangers deployed across Thailand’s national parks. They are Thailand’s frontline defense of its parks, protected areas and wildlife. They put themselves at daily risk, working in remote and dangerous wilderness, under threat of armed poachers. Many are killed directly by poachers and traffickers, while others are injured in the dangerous environments in which they work. Since August 2016 there have been 6 ranger fatalities and 11 serious injuries. This year, compensation and service recognition was presented to 13 rangers and their families.
General Surasak Karnjanarat, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, presided over a Ranger parade at 10am this morning. Mr. Thanya Netithammakun, the Director General of Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) and Mr. Suriya Amornrochworawut, the Vice Governor of Prachinburi province were in attendance along with the 1,300 Rangers from three departments from which the rangers are drawn: the DNP (800); the Royal Forest Department (400); and the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (100).
According to Mr.Thanya Netithammakun, this event emphasizes the importance of rangers who work in the frontline of nature conservation. “This event aims to foster public appreciation for the rangers and their work protecting biodiversity and wildernesses. Specifically, World Ranger Day honors the rangers who were injured or lost their lives in the line of duty. This event, also reminds the public about the importance of nature and encourages people to jointly conserve and rehabilitate natural resources.”
Mr. Thanya Netithammakul announced the success of the first ever ‘Run for Rangers’. This 10km race took place at 7am in the spectacular setting of Khao Yai National Park on Sunday 30 July, and similar runs also took place in three other national parks nationwide: Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi province, Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiangmai province and Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani province. The runs allow the public to show their support for the rangers, promote World Ranger Day and to raise funds for Rangers’ Welfare, which will be used to help support rangers and their families. Mr. Thanya concluded by saying: “Protecting nature is both honorable and dangerous so we must salute the brave people that protect our natural heritage and find ways to support them every way we can”.
Freeland, the Bangkok based anti-trafficking NGO was a co-host of the event. For 17 years, Freeland’s Surviving Together program has improved front-line protection by providing ranger training, equipment, wildlife monitoring systems and supporting local communities. “The risks faced by rangers are increasing every year”, says Freeland’s Tim Redford, “what we are seeing is poachers with war weapons, not somebody trying to feed their kids. Wildlife trafficking is now worth an estimated $20 billion a year and the compounding tragedy is that the value of endangered species rises as their number falls, so international criminal syndicates are intent on plundering Thailand’s natural heritage until they get every last one. Sometimes it does feel like a war but with the right training, the right equipment and, critically, with the extraordinary commitment of rangers, it is one we can win.”