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Perspectives from the World Ranger Congress

The 8th annual World Ranger Congress was held in Colorado, USA from May 21-27th 2016. John H. Probert attended the conference as a representative of WILDLABS.NET. In this report he shares his experiences at the congress and the key outcomes from the week. 

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The World Ranger Congress was held to bring together rangers from across the globe to learn new skills and create networks to become more effective rangers in their parks and communities. There were over 330 participants from 60 countries for the conference. The conference consisted of plenaries, panel discussions, poster sessions, informal field trips and educational events.

The Kenyan Delegation at the World Ranger Congress Flag Ceremony. (Credit: John H. Probert)

Opening the World Ranger Congress. (Credit: John H. Probert)

I’ve never been to a conference like this before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Just driving to the location of the conference was breathtaking seeing the natural beauty of Colorado and  the different ecosystems. Along the way I got to see many different kinds of wildlife including elk, pronghorn, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets.

I was there to represent WILDLABS.NET, and I could go into a spiel about what WILDLABS.NET is, but since you are reading this, you likely are already passingly familiar with the network. With the platform being new, I was there to spread awareness of the community. I was able to interact with different rangers and learn about the different challenges they faced.

One of the most interesting events I attended during the Congress was a panel discussion on ranger working conditions. Listening to the results of the ranger survey were eye opening. Some 82% of African rangers and 63% of Asian rangers claimed to have faced a threat on their lives. I was also surprised to discover that large numbers of rangers across Africa, Asia and the Americas that they would not want their children to become rangers. They cited little to no insurance, time away from their families and hazardous conditions as factors. It was a great panel and the follow-up questions and discussions were fantastic. 

In my conversations with my fellow attendees, I discovered that for many rangers it was their first time in the US. There was a shared feeling that this congress was an incredible opportunity. A number of the rangers there were working on different technology initiatives, such as wildlife crime apps and foostep detection technology. I was blown away by the depth and range of expertise these rangers showed at this conference. I also learned a lot about different challenges rangers faced in the field, such as being away from their families and the availability of equipment.

Tracking technology deployed by Denver Zoo. (Credit: John H. Probert)

 I learned a lot from my experiences at the World Ranger Congress. It was a great opportunity to showcase the community platform and interact with individuals from all across the globe. Most of the rangers I spoke to talked about the incredible opportunity they had to learn from each other and grow personally and professionally. I came into the Congress not sure what to expect but I left feeling happy and privileged to have met some of the brave people working at the frontlines to protect our world's most critical biodiversity hotspots. 

The next World Ranger Congress will be in 2019 in Nepal. Maybe if I play my cards right, I'll be able to attend that one and enjoy the sights and sounds of Kathmandu. 

About the Author

John H. Probert works for the World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C., primarily on WILDLABS.NET. He is also a graduate student at George Mason University. He has a background in wildlife crime, shorebird conservation and conservation mapping software. Follow John on Twitter to keep up to date with his latest posts about #tech4wildlife.  

All images in article body are credited to John H. Probert. 

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