Responsible travel

Published on July 9th, 2014 | by Oliver Pelling


6 incredible animals our park rangers protect

Read time: a bit over 4 minutes

Safaris and wildlife spotting is a key part of heaps of Geckos itineraries around the world. But without the incredibly brave work our park rangers do, we likely wouldn’t have any animals to find or habitats to get lost in. The work these men and women undertake is dangerous, as we recently highlighted in another post, and without the support of foundations such as The Thin Green Line, who we’ve partnered with for the Greenline Grooves gig, their work would be much, much more difficult. 

But unfortunately, despite the work of park rangers and The Thin Green Line, their respective jobs are actually getting harder. A rising poor population means low-level animal poaching numbers are steadily climbing, and commercial demand from various Asian countries means military-grade poaching operations – that cost hundreds of rangers’ lives a year – are also prevalent. So yeah…these guys are doing it tough to protect our wildlife. Here’s the lowdown on just a handful of the incredible creatures the rangers are fighting to protect:

Tigers – India, Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan, Malaysia, Russia, Bangladesh, Indonesia

daniel dudek-corrigan

Photo courtesy of Daniel Dudek-Corrigan, Flickr

Poached primarily for: organs, fur and bones

Unfortunately, poachers hunt tigers in order to sell their organs, fur and bones to black markets. Parts of tigers are also highly regarded in eastern medicine despite these treatments being proven to have absolutely zero medicinal value. Over the past 100 years, tiger populations have dropped 97%, but you can see them in Chitwan National Park and in parts of India, Nepal, Indonesia and South East Asia.

During the course of 2013, a total of 15 rangers were reported to have lost their lives in the aforementioned areas. The real figures are likely to be 2-3 times this and there are only an estimated 3,000 tigers left in the wild, so says the BBC.

African Lions – Africa (28 countries)


Photo courtesy of Mark Dumont, Flickr

Poached primarily for: bones, fur

Poachers kill these handsome beasts for their skeletons, which are ground up for use in eastern medicine. African lions have faced a population reduction from nearly 200,000 to 15,000 in the space of 50 years. The creatures are now extinct in 25 African countries.

Elephants – Africa (38 countries) and Asia (11 countries)


Photo courtesy of Brian Snelson, Flickr

Poached primarily for: ivory tusks

As recently as 1930, there were an estimated 10 million elephants that called Africa their home. By 1989, that numbered had dropped to 600,00.

One of Kenya’s largest and most loved elephants, Satao, was killed by poachers back in June. He was found in Tsavo East national Park with his tusks stolen and his face mutilated. In 2013, poaching killed 20,000 elephants and despite that being 2,000 less than 2012, conservation experts claim that the official figures represent only a fraction of the real numbers.

Additionally, 39 rangers were killed protecting wildlife in Africa in the same year (though again, the real death toll is likely to be 2-3 times higher, as not all deaths are reported). You can see elephants in both Africa – in Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania for example – and Asia, from India in the west over to Borneo in the east.

Leopards – India, Sri Lanka, Africa, Siberia


Photo courtesy of Kolitha De Silva, Flickr

Poached primarily for: fur

Leopards might have done a better job of staying hidden than tigers over the years, but poachers have still managed to render leopards extinct in some areas. In India, four leopards are believed to be killed by poachers each week. And poaching in Sri Lanka has decreased leopard populations by 75% over the past century, according to the New York Times.

Rhinos – Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam, India

Chris Eason

Photo courtesy of Chris Eason, Flickr

Poached primarily for: horns

In South Africa alone through to June 5, 2014, poachers had killed a total of 442 rhinos in Kruger National Park – one of the most-visited and popular traveller destinations in the world. Once, there were over 100,000 black rhinos on the African plains but the figure’s now closer to 2,700.

This extreme drop in numbers is due to poaching, as the rhino’s horn is used widely in eastern medicine and for daggers handles in countries such as Yemen. A rhino’s horn can fetch up to US$40,000 a kilo – which is more than five times the price of gold (despite the horns being made of the same stuff human fingernails are made of).

You can visit rhinos on Geckos trips on Africa and stop off at the Khama rhino sanctuary – a community based wildlife project to help protect Botswana’s remaining rhino population.

Gorillas – Rwanda, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Joe McKenna

Photo courtesy of Joe McKenna, Flickr

Poached primarily for: meat

It it isn’t the Ebola virus or mass deforestation that gorillas have to contend with, it’s poachers. Gorilla meat is a staple of the bushmeat blackmarket, and the stuff has even been known to make it into cities such as Paris and London, where gorilla meat can be considered a prestigious treat amongst the wealthy elite.

The animal’s low levels of reproduction mean that even minimal hunting could make a huge impact on numbers. It’s hard to estimate the numbers of gorillas killed by poaching, as many are killed and eaten on the spot. A sad fate indeed for creature that are so smart, they’ve even been known to dismantle traps set for them.

We’ve partnered with The Thin Green Line Foundation for the Greenline Grooves gig, taking place in Melbourne on 1 August 2014 and featuring an all-star lineup of Gotye, Tex Perkins, Nicky Bomba and others. Proceeds will go towards helping equip, educate and train park rangers, as well as supporting the families of those who’ve lost their lives.

We’ve got FOUR VIP tickets to give away to this awesome event, so head over to our main website and get amongst it. You’ll get to meet the artists, get your photo taken with them, and get a signed CD (remember CDs?).

If you’re not based in Australia, or if you just can’t make the gig, you can do your bit to fight these horrific numbers and support The Thin Green Line by donating directly to the foundation on their official website.


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About the Author

I once drove a tuk-tuk 1200km around Sri Lanka. I enjoy food of the Mexican and Japanese persuasion (and Korean. And most others). I'm from England but I live in Melbourne, where it feels like I'm on holiday all the time. And I'm Geckos digital editor, but don't come to me if you have any complaints about things you see on Tales. Unless the complaints are accompanied by tacos, in which case we can probably strike a deal

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