PRETORIA– South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Barbara Thomson, led the nation to observe World Ranger Day at the Addo Elephant National Park in Eastern Cape Province Tuesday to pay tribute to the men and women who defend the country’s wildlife, sometimes paying with their very lives.

Thomson delivered the commemorative message, highlighting the dedication and commitment of South Africa’s rangers as well as the importance of World Ranger Day, which is observed on July 31 each year globally to commemorate the many rangers killed or injured in the line of duty. It is also a day to celebrate the work they do to protect the world’s natural and cultural treasures.

This year, the South African National Parks (SANParks) showcased the work done by marine rangers in the national parks at the Darlington Dam section of the Addo Elephant National Park. The display showed how marine and terrestrial rangers work together to protect natural heritage.

South Africa is battling threats to its wildlife on many fronts and elephants and rhinos are not the only animals at risk of being poached. Species such as abalone are illegally harvested and sea turtles are snared, while illegal fishing and dumping of waste into the oceans is rife.

Sharks are caught for their fins, while whales and other ocean species are dying because of over-fishing and the amount of plastic and other waste dumped into the oceans.

As a result, much of the ranger corps’ duties are being focused on anti-poaching operations. SANParks rangers undergo extensive training, supported by canine units, small air wing aircraft, as well as sophisticated technology as part of its anti-poaching operations,” said Thomson.

Our rangers are facing daily hardships in their efforts to protect many of our species, such as the elephant, rhino, cycad, pangolin and abalone from poachers. Our country’s natural heritage, derived from our enormous biodiversity, is a key income generator for tourism and thus an important contributor to our economy through job creation and tourism.”