A day to celebrate our ‘Guardians of Nature’
In conjunction with World Ranger Day 2016 on July 31, 40 rangers or ‘Wira Rimba’ from all over Malaysia gathered at Kubah National Park in recognition of their contributions and in honour of all Malaysian rangers for guarding our natural heritage and biodiversity.
The national-level World Ranger Day celebration was officially launched by Datuk Sri Dr Azimuddin Bahari, the Deputy Secretary-General (Environmental Management) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE).
The four-day event, spanning from Aug 8-10, materialised with the assistance and funding support from the Protected Areas (PA) Financing Project, a national project executed by the NRE and implemented by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.
The gathering of rangers was also organised by WWF-Malaysia and hosted by the Forest Department of Sarawak. The launch ceremony was attended by the Sarawak Forest Department director Sapuan Ahmad and national project director of the PA Financing Project, Mohd Taufik Abdul Rahman.
According to Dr Jason Hon, WWF-Malaysia’s Sarawak programme leader, World Ranger Day is a very special day and it should be shared with all Malaysians.
“We must acknowledge that rangers play a crucial role in protecting biodiversity in Malaysia by sharing their stories with the public, particularly their experience and challenges in the course of duty. Besides promoting greater public awareness and appreciation for rangers, World Ranger Day also inspires young Malaysians to become the next generation of Protected Areas frontliners.”
Three secondary schools were invited to the launching ceremony, including SMKA Sheikh Haji Othman Abdul Wahab, SMKS Kuching and SMKA Matang 2.
“We aim to engage with students and give them the opportunity to participate while celebrating the role of our rangers in protecting wildlife and biodiversity unique to our country. We believe this program will indirectly increase knowledge and awareness amongst the younger generation about the importance of protected areas,” Dr Jason added.
World Ranger Day was first observed in 2007 to highlight efforts to raise awareness and support the critical work that park rangers do to conserve our natural and cultural heritage.
Today, World Ranger Day (WRD) is commemorated all over the world, including in Malaysia, to recognise the role played by those involved in safeguarding protected areas and threatened biodiversity across the globe. It is also an occasion on which all rangers unite to honour compatriots that have sustained injuries or paid the ultimate price in the line of duty.
On a national-level, World Ranger Day is an opportunity for rangers from various parks, reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries to exchange their knowledge and experience and therefore establish a mutually supportive peer network. This event may also empower and motivate the rangers to enhance their performance in accordance with international benchmarks, and to achieve greater levels of pride and professionalism in their career.
Like many countries, Malaysia faces the challenge of managing its natural endowments in the face of increased environmental degradation and poaching activities. The threats varied and ranged from illegal and unsustainable logging activities, to poaching, wildlife trade and illegal collection of agarwood.
Rangers are our first line of defence against these threats as they are the ones safeguarding the various Parks, Reserves, and Wildlife Sanctuaries that house the nation’s irreplaceable biodiversity and essential ecosystem services.
Generally, park rangers supervise a wide range of activities within protected areas. In addition to ensuring the safety of visitors, they also play a central role in deterring poaching and the illegal harvesting of natural resources, which can be both challenging and potentially dangerous.
As these brave rangers continue to face daunting challenges in safeguarding our protected areas, it is hoped that the government will recognise the contributions of Malaysia’s Guardians of Nature annually, with support from various organisations committed to conservation in Malaysia. Together, everything is possible.