"They are a fine, earnest, intelligent and public spirited body of men, these rangers. Though small in number, their influence is large. Many and long are the duties heaped upon their shoulders. If a trail is to be blazed, it is "send a ranger". If an animal is floundering in the snow, a ranger is sent to pull it out; if a bear is in the hotel, if a fire threatens a forest, if someone is to be saved , it is "send a ranger". If a Dude wants to know the why, if a sagebrusher is puzzled about a road, it is "ask the ranger". Everything the ranger knows, he will tell you, except about himself"
These are the words of Steven Mather, the first director of the US National Park Service describing the early park rangers in 1916, and being quoted by SANParks' chief executive officer, David Mabunda at the passing out parade of 49 recruits in the Kruger National Park (KNP).
These newly trained field rangers will join the KNP ranger corps as the first group of the 150 new rangers that will be trained as was announced by the minister of water and environmental affairs, Edna Molewa, at the beginning of the year.
This came in response to the increasing onslaught on the country's rhino population by highly sophisticated poachers.
"We need to denounce the killing of our animals by ensuring that we close up the syndicates who are enticing the poorer members of society to engage in criminal activities, recruiting them to be in the front line of these evil operations. It is therefore our hope that integration of these new recruits, who are members of our communities, with the current cream of the crop in the Ranger corps should signal our seriousness in winning the fight against rhino poaching," said Mabunda.
He applauded the assistance of the corporate world as he accepted a R 5 million cheque from UNITRANS Volkswagen and Audi in their support of anti-poaching activities in the KNP.
The ongoing support of the SANParks Honorary Rangers are priceless and were duly recognised. With the help of the HR, SANParks can acquire much needed equipment to effectively take the war to the poachers. "This is an indication that South Africa has realized that the fight against poaching will not only be defeated through the work of law enforcement agencies alone, but by a unified front ‘United Against Poaching'."
The parade was inspected by SANParks top rangers, Dr Mabunda, SANParks management, high ranking officials of the South African Police Services and South African National Defense Force border patrol units.