Up close with Musa Moloi, Wildlife Ranger in Kenya’s Loita forest
ONLY THE BRAVE
Rangers face challenging and dangerous situations almost every day, yet many lack the most basic means to do their job. WWF is working hard to support rangers around the world — nowhere more so than in Kenya.
A RANGER’S STORY
“I work hard every day to protect wildlife and support local people,” explains Musa Moloi, describing the demands of his work. Musa is senior community ranger at Elangata Enderit village in Loita forest, which borders Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Musa lives at the heart of the very community in which he himself was raised, with his wife Teresia and three-year-old son Ryan. “Make the life of a ranger better,” says Musa, “and you’ll get the best conservation.”
RANGERS ON PATROL
It’s a case of ‘three’s company’ for Musa and his colleagues Daniel and Solomon, as they set out on patrol. Their work takes them to all corners of the community, liaising with farmers over wildlife conflict issues, investigating any poaching incidents and helping the villagers live sustainably alongside the wildlife whose land they share. Like rangers all over the world, the team work in tough conditions and cover a wide area with only limited resources. But their commitment is unwavering. “We try and achieve the best coexistence between the wildlife, the forest and the local pastoralist communities,” Musa explains.
THE WISDOM OF ELDERS
Musa’s father still lives in the village where he grew up. He’s proud of what his son has achieved, and has taught him much about the local wildlife. “The area where my father was a young man was once the best place for rhinos,” Musa explains.
“It’s sad for him that we’ve lost so many animals, especially the rhinos.”
For rangers such as Musa, having family ties within the community they serve helps foster trust and respect. And village elders, such as Musa’s father, remain an invaluable source of wisdom.
JUST LIKE A FAMILY
After a tough morning’s training, a simple cup of tea brewed over an open fire offers a welcome break for the rangers at Ololaimutia ranger post on the border of Mara Siana. “A ranger’s life is not easy,” says Peter Lokitela, who trains the men thanks to support from WWF. “But because of their passion, these rangers have the endurance and perseverance it takes.” Peter describes how hard life can be for his team, who cope with basic living conditions and meager resources to do their work, but explains that their camaraderie pulls them through.
“We must all hold hands with these rangers so that they can keep going.”
RANGERS IN THE MARA
In Kenya, WWF has helped to develop Mara Siana and Oloisukut community conservancies, both located in the buffer area around the Maasai Mara National Reserve. These were formed when the communities jointly set aside land for conservation, tourism and livestock pasture.
Habitat degradation has been arrested, and poaching — once heavy here– has fallen steeply, resulting in increases in threatened wildlife populations, such as lions. Local livelihoods have also improved. The communities now benefit from increased employment, better grazing management and improved cattle quality. Fees from leasing their land bring in extra revenue, while beekeeping and alternative crops such as chilli peppers offer new sources of income. Critical to this success has been our work with rangers. This varies from constructing new accommodation with clean water to supporting insurance costs.
Peter Lokitela conducts early morning drill for the rangers that he works with at Mara Siana Conservancy. An experienced frontline ranger, who has confronted both armed poachers and dangerous wild animals, he knows that discipline is essential for his team to succeed. He also knows how difficult life can be for rangers.
“We are constantly faced by challenges and a lack of resources, and are always at risk,” Peter says.
Peter is helping the team to eradicate problems such as poaching and logging within the Loita forest while ensuring they do not lose the trust of local people.
“We do our best to work with the community, while making sure there are no illegal activities,” he explains.
“But we are just a few men, and the area is very large.”
LIVING WITH PREDATORS
Nolkidotu Nkuito, a herdsman from Naitiroki village, explains to Musa and his team the problems he faces with local wildlife. Nolkidotu has lost more than 40 goats to leopards and hyenas, and his prized cow was recently taken by a lion. Having grown up in this community himself, Musa can understand the farmers’ fears and frustrations — and these daily consultations enable him to win over hearts and minds. The rangers work tirelessly to find solutions, from innovations in animal husbandry to compensation schemes for lost livestock.
“Despite all the challenges we encounter,” Musa explains, “the community remains the best tool for protecting wildlife.”
TRAINING FOR SUCCESS
Peter Lokitela, project officer for WWF-Kenya, says: “When I grew up, I was passionate about conservation. I will always protect our natural heritage for future generations.” With 15 years’ experience in the Kenya Wildlife Service, Peter is helping to train community rangers in order to increase ranger capacity in the Mara region. “I can’t just sit back with all this knowledge and watch other people who need it,” he insists. “Through capacity-building, I’m able to share my experience and skills so that others can succeed.”
RANGERS SPEAK OUT
In October, we published the results of our survey into the welfare of rangers around the world. Some 4,686 rangers from 17 countries responded, 94% of them male. We wanted to learn more about the challenges they face, and to demonstrate the need for better resources and more political will to support them in their amazing work. 82% of rangers think their job is dangerous due to the risk of encountering poachers. 38% of rangers feel that the training they received when they started their job was inadequate. Only 33% of rangers have regular access to mosquito nets at their outpost 58% of rangers don’t have regular access to clean drinking water while on patrol. At least 107 rangers were killed in the line of duty from July 2017 to July 2018, according to the International Ranger Federation and Thin Green Line Foundation
RESPONDING TO THESE CHALLENGES
WWF provides daily rations for rangers on patrol, procure new uniforms, purchase radio equipment and smartphones, and subsidise vehicle maintenance and fuel costs. We’ve also helped to fund training in data collection and wildlife ecology. WWF has been able to upgrade their living quarters, provide vital resources from boots to radio equipment, and improve their training. Working with governments and other partners, we aim to ensure that all rangers worldwide receive the equipment, protection, and recognition they need for the invaluable work they do.