MANAGEMENT from the Tsitsikamma section of Garden Route National Park (GRNP) celebrated World Rangers Day on July 31, applauding their positive role in protecting the park’s rich biodiversity and thus enhancing tourism - one of the largest contributors to the local GDP and job creation.
Speaking at the function, Tsitsikamma senior ranger Eugenia Mkhatshwa said: “Your work doesn’t only benefit SANParks, but the entire Tsitsikamma and its tourism economy.”
GRNP spans indigenous forests of about 42,000ha and fynbos areas of about 89,000ha from Wilderness and Knysna in the Western Cape to Tsitsikamma in the Eastern Cape. The park’s waterscape comprises wetlands, rivers, estuaries and the ocean.
Rangers actively protect the park by doing various patrols on foot (the forest areas include 12 Green-accredited hiking trails), by boat (in SA’s oldest Marine Protected Area, among others), and various other modes of transport. This includes law enforcement and anti-poaching work in line with environmental legislation.
They work tirelessly to strengthen relationships with communities as well as stakeholders such as the SAPS, community policing groups and the like, while also assisting with research and ecological monitoring of species.
Although SANParks has Working on Fire teams, rangers actively participate in controlled burns and with fighting wildfires.
SANParks is an implementing agent for Expanded Public Works Projects such as Working for the Coast (clean and clear coastal areas), Working for Water and others, where rangers help maintain the area and clear invasive alien species.
Mkhatshwa said challenges facing rangers include conflict with user groups of various ecosystems, emphasising the role played by People & Conservation officers and the newly-appointed Tourism Monitors.
She thanked the SANParks Honorary Rangers for their continued support to field and section rangers.