A Conversation with Juliet Carter, National Director at Autism South Africa

Association Managament Company
Association Managament Company
Association Managament Company
Association Managament Company
Association Managament Company

“An Inspiring Interview with Peter Mills on World Rangers Day”

Today, it is our distinct privilege to introduce Peter, a seasoned ranger and dedicated conservationist with a lifelong passion for the wild. From an early age, Peter’s aspirations were firmly rooted in the realm of conservation, inspired by his cherished experiences at Kruger National Park. With a career that began as a reserve manager in 1982, Peter discovered the reality of preserving and managing the environment he holds dear. Today, as the Chairperson of the Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA), he fervently advocates for African rangers and the protection of the continent’s biodiversity, fostering cooperation and empowering local communities in the process.

1. Hi Peter! Thank you for joining the conversation. Can you tell me about your childhood aspirations? What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?

I’ve always wanted to be involved in conservation. I was fortunate to have parents who took me to Kruger at a young age, and since then, I knew this was what I wanted to do. It was a romantic idea then, but as soon as I started working as a reserve manager in 1982, I realised the reality of working in this environment.

2. Can you share any particular experiences or encounters from your career that have strengthened your dedication to supporting African rangers and preserving the continent's wildlife?

I don’t like the word ‘preserving’ because the environment is not static and always changing. We need to work towards a future environment that is sustainable with an understanding that it will be far different to what we regard as normal today.
This is very important for everyone, especially rangers. We can only gain support for wildlife management, which is what we do, if we consider the aims and aspirations of the communities from where we come and whom we support. It is important for communities to manage their landscapes, often where wildlife is still prolific, rather than try and secure more areas for preservation. Preservation is a foreign concept in Africa and is associated with colonialism and exclusion. We must look at new ways of getting local communities to realise the importance of the wildlife that they live with.

I have had many experiences, from charging buffalo and rhino close encounters with snakes. They are just part of the job that makes life more interesting. It’s better than sitting in an office!
But I’ve always been concerned about how rangers, despite their important work, are disregarded in so many ways. Low down the decision-making ladder, poorly paid, poorly equipped, and so on. Joining the Game Rangers Association of Africa afforded me the opportunity to do something about this.


3. In your opinion, what are the most critical areas or ecosystems in Africa that require immediate attention and increased conservation efforts? Could you explain why these areas are particularly significant?

Interesting question! My immediate response is to say everywhere. EO Wilson, the conservation biologist, said we need ‘half-earth’. I don’t think he was joking. There are Key Biodiversity Areas that guide conservation planning. We spend too much time inside protected areas. Real conservation occurs in the communal areas of Africa where people and wildlife coexist. This is where real conservation must happen. We must empower (capacitate) people to manage their environment more sustainably. Efforts must be local. Seldom do big top NGOs put anything in place that is long-lasting or permanent that can secure the persistence of biodiversity into the future.
Unfortunately, the international NGO community dominates conservation in Africa both philosophically and financially.

4. Gender equality and diversity in the ranger profession are important considerations. What steps is the association taking to encourage the inclusion of women and diverse groups in ranger teams?

If one can do a ranger’s job and is qualified, we don’t care what you call yourself. The situation is changing, and we are getting more and more women rangers into the workforce and in our management structures. We believe that the matter should not be forced and will naturally change. It’s happening now. As an Association, we make sure that there are no obstacles in the way of any ranger to progress.

5. In your opinion, what are the most critical areas or ecosystems in Africa that require immediate attention and increased conservation efforts? Could you explain why these areas are particularly significant?

No ecosystem can be classified as more important than another. Still, iconic areas like the KAZA area, Selous, Serengeti, Mara, the Rwenzori area, Africa’s rainforests etc., are important and need direct attention. Africa rainforests are particularly important to world climate regulation and carbon sequestration. More attention should be given to such areas. Conservation money has always been an issue, and we must look at additional ways of generating revenue from and for wildlife. Although tourism is an important generator of funds, we need to be less reliant on it. Besides, revenues generated from tourism rarely get down to communities or conservation. This is why people must be empowered to manage their own local environments.

6. This World Rangers Day, we commemorate rangers killed or injured in the line of duty. Acknowledging that Rangers often encounter resource limitations and inadequate equipment is important.

I’m curious how the Game Rangers Association of Africa addresses these challenges and ensures that rangers have the necessary resources and support to carry out their duties effectively.

We lose far too many rangers each year, so it is important that we remember them on World Ranger Day. We try to keep a record in collaboration with the IRF, but I think many rangers are killed that we never get to hear about. There are still many remote African places where rangers work with little support. We revere them.

The GRAA base our operations on three pillars:
Ranger support. We provide members with life cover and specialist medical support, both in short supply across the continent. We also facilitate training in leadership, general ranger work and counter-poaching techniques, which are specialist skills, especially nowadays. We also work at getting equipment like boots, clothing webbing and rucksacks to rangers who need it most. Equipping rangers remains a challenge though. It gives me the jitters when people donate money to “conservation” causes, rather than support our ranger support programme. Donated money hardly ever gets down to the people and projects that need it most. It is strategically more important to support the custodians of wildlife rather than to some nefarious campaign where one doesn’t know where the money goes to.

We also devote much of our time and effort to building advocacy (we are members of the IUCN, URSA and the IRF) so that we can operate on broader platforms to push the relevance of the ranger in modern Africa. And then, of cause, we do a lot of networking between rangers and like-minded organisations to further the cause of the ranger which has been made more accessible these days by various social media platforms.

7. The involvement of local communities is crucial for successful conservation. How does the Game Rangers Association of Africa engage with local communities to build trust, foster cooperation, and promote sustainable practices?

This is an overworked point. We have been working with communities for a long time now. We haven’t done a great job, but the world is changing, and we are getting better at it. People forget that many of our rangers are from communities and play an important role, by default, in those communities. Very often, rangers are the sole breadwinners of the family. Yes, we have programmes with ranger employers that are inclusive of local communities. Without local support the work of the ranger becomes so much more difficult.

8. The poaching crisis remains a significant threat to Africa's wildlife. Can you provide insights into any innovative approaches or technologies the Game Rangers Association of Africa explores to combat poaching and enhance anti-poaching efforts?

We are an Association and do not have direct management or implanting capacity. Still, we engage with ranger’s employers and training institutions to ensure the rangers have access to the best training and equipment. We have learned that while technology can be useful, it is expensive and not easily accessible. Many ranger teams across Africa do a great job without all the available technology.

9. Please share with me some of the challenges you currently face as the Game Rangers Association of Africa chairperson.

The GRAA has a continental reach and members that speak three different languages; each country has its laws and regulations. These and getting chapters to function optimally are our biggest challenges.

10. What are the current goals of the Game Rangers Association of Africa for the rest of 2023?

We continually work on the three focus areas I mentioned above, but our attention remains on building capital to support our ranger insurance and medical fund. It’s a lot of hard work.