Rangers risk life and limb to save beloved wildlife
SEE ALSO :County tourism benefits from devolutionMolai said although rangers face threats from poachers and wildlife they protect, their conservation efforts play a key role. For the first time, African rangers were feted for their exceptional stories. Surging herd Alfred Bett, is one of the rangers at Mara Triangle among 50 in Africa and 18 in Kenya who won the 2018 African Rangers Award in August. His life-threatening experience while trying to remove a snare from a baby elephant’s neck amidst the surging herd propelled him among the top African rangers. “These snares bear our stories. Each rusty snare has a story tied to it and in one of my most jittery moments as a ranger I almost lost my life while rescuing a baby elephant which was almost chocking. At the same time, a group of elephants were charging fast and we were torn between saving the chocking calf and running for our lives. Miraculously, the elephant which was charging banged on a tree and broke its tusk, giving us enough time to free the calf,” Mr Bett said Removing snares from trapped calves, Mr Bett said, is always scary, and deadly.
SEE ALSO :The man with the claw-marked body“It was a success but to date, it still gives me the jitters,” he said. In contrast to his welcoming and friendly character, Bett is a stickler for rules. Among other roles, he ensures wildlife are not harassed and tourists do not drive off the designated roads and paths. Tourists who defy and drive close to the animals are fined Sh10,000 or even ‘seen off’ Masai Mara in case one attempts to bribe. Bett is mandated to ensure strict revenue collection through use of a mobile app to verify tourists details and payments. “I cannot condone friendship with anyone who does not respect my work. This is a wildlife territory, an only place they call home and we cannot take the advantage and disturb these animals in their homes,” he said. In the Mara Triangle, one can easily notice the change in environment, more organised, with no off drives, tourists always watch the animals in designated places. “We had to put in place the rules and urge visitors to adhere to them that is why the Mara conservancies remain one of the best conservancies with no off drives. Here, wildlife remains the pride and tourists should accord them respect,” Bett said. The ranger does not condone corruption and acts tough to ensure tourists adhere to park rules. “I have never taken a bribe. I believe that we can best deal with the law if we seal the loopholes of corruption. In instances where a tourist is adamant to bribe and goes beyond exchanging words, I simply strike them off Mara and personally escort them until they are outside the gate,” he said. The African Rangers award is the initiative of Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, and is designed to raise awareness about threats to Africa’s wildlife and the critical role that front-line rangers play in conservation.