NAIROBI, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) — Harrison Kamande’s meteoric rise from an ordinary constable to a sergeant at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has been an inspiration to his younger peers on the frontline of protecting iconic species like elephants and rhinos from human induced threats.
The 35 years old father of four had limited interaction with Kenya’s wildlife heritage while growing up in a farming village but came to appreciate its enormous value later in adulthood when he graduated from a rangers’ training school.
Kamande was among dozens of rangers who were awarded cash prizes and certificates of recognition on Sunday when Kenya marked Conservation Heroes Day, thanks to their selfless dedication towards wildlife protection.
“The job of a wildlife ranger is not meant for the faint-hearted. Danger lurks in every corner of the jungle as we go about the business of protecting flora and fauna,” Kamande remarked.
He recounted chilling encounter with large mammals like buffaloes, rhinos and elephants while patrolling the wildlife parks with colleagues but escaped unhurt after making good use of paramilitary training he underwent after high school.
Kamande noted that protecting Kenya’s wildlife species has become a risky enterprise in the wake of poaching and human-wildlife conflicts linked to shrinking habitat for animals and climatic stresses.
“While in the middle of the forest, it is not unusual for an animal to emerge from nowhere and charge at a human being who has intruded into its territory. An encounter with bandits who hunt these animals is a chilling prospect,” said Kamande.
He beamed with a sense of pride and relief upon receiving a token of appreciation for exemplary service at the agency in charge of managing Kenya’s wildlife sanctuaries.
Kenyan First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta presented cash prizes and certificates of recognition to living conservation heroes like Kamande in recognition of their selfless devotion towards protection of wildlife.
“The sacrifice of men and women who protect our wildlife heritage should be recognized and rewarded. Our wildlife numbers have gone up as a result of dedication of these gallant foot soldiers,” Kenyatta said.
She reaffirmed the government’s commitment to improve welfare of wildlife rangers through re-training, provision of medical insurance and protective gear.
Hundreds of armed rangers who guard wildlife sanctuaries spread across Kenya’s vast savannah have developed a strong affinity towards iconic wildlife species that are a major source of tourism revenue in the East Africa’s largest economy.
Elka Makhanu, a female ranger with 14 years of experience guarding different national parks in the country said she felt honored to be part of the team that is protecting wildlife treasures despite the inherent risks.
“It feels great to be among the few female wildlife rangers in the country and the job is laden with many risks but am determined to protect a heritage that was bequeathed to us by our ancestors,” said Makhanu.
The bubbly ranger with athletic features said that spending time inside protected wildlife areas for more than a decade strengthened her resilience in the face of numerous dangers.
“I appreciate the vast knowledge I have gained working as a ranger and look forward to mentoring young people who are keen to venture in this vocation. The rewards are myriad if there is passion and commitment,” said Makhanu.
Kenya wildlife service (KWS) and partners have come up with a reward scheme for rangers whose outstanding performance has contributed to enhanced protection of iconic species facing threat of poaching.
Charles Musyoki, acting director general of KWS said that motivating wildlife rangers amid mounting threat to their safety has been a priority to enhance protection of iconic species like large herbivores, carnivores, birds and reptiles.
“We are committed to providing incentives to rangers whose contribution to survival of our wildlife heritage is critical. These rangers have demonstrated high levels of patriotism while protecting a resource that we are proud to bequeath to future generations,” said Musyoki.
Raphael Muthama, an assistant warden 2 who is in charge of wildlife sanctuaries in northern Kenya said his 17 years’ experience as a ranger taught him the value of cherishing iconic species that are embedded in Kenya’s heritage.
“It requires sacrifice for one to work as a ranger. Living in the jungles while protecting wildlife is a highly risky undertaking. We often dodge bullets from poachers and an attack from the animals is a real possibility,” said Muthama.
The 37 years old father of two vowed to be on the frontline of protecting iconic wildlife species given their contribution to the country’s prosperity and ecosystem balance.
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