Game Ranger

What does a game ranger do?

A game ranger, also known as a game warden or conservation officer, is a member of law enforcement. This person is charged with protecting wildlife in a specified area to ensure that population levels of certain types of wildlife are kept at biologically successful levels. It is the responsibility of the game ranger to enforce hunting and fishing licenses and seasons by patrolling in his or her assigned area, such as a national or state park.

The tasks of a photographer may include:

  • ensuring the day-to-day health and well-being of the game researching and monitoring
  • making sure that hunting and fishing licenses are up to date
  • making sure that people are not hunting out of season and are following the provisions of the license
  • game capture and introductions
  • population management
  • burning programmes
  • infrastructure and equipment maintenance
  • public relations
  • environmental education
  • local community relations, liaison and involvement.

Interview with a game ranger

Daniel Van Wyk | GAME RANGER | Aquila Private Game Reserve

Why did you become a game ranger?
Because I love nature, animals and the great outdoors.

Describe what you do
I assist in ensuring the day-to-day health and well-being of the game at Aquila Private Game Reserve. When new animals arrive, I help with the introduction of these animals into the communities that are already resident. I also educate our guests about the wildlife during safari game drives.

What training did you undergo?
The qualifications and experience I’ve gained whilst training to become a local nature guide include general guiding skills, basic astronomy, local history, weather and climate, basic ecology, fauna, flora, and bush signs (in my specific area). I have also completed Level 3 as a paramedic and take part in ambulance ride-alongs on some of my days off.

What personality type is best suited to this work?
You have to be a people person and you must be passionate about nature. You should have a love of animals and be able to handle them carefully. You need to be quite active as you’ll be expected to cover a lot of ground and, because most game farms are in remote locations, you must be happy to live remotely.

Experience vs formal training?
Both are equally important. Game rangers need to understand nature conservation issues, and conduct themselves in an environmentally sensitive way. All aspects of the job require both experience and training.

Describe a typical day on the reserve
Every day is different, and every day is an adventure. I get to work with the Big Five at Aquila, which was the first reserve to reintroduce them into the Western Cape. It’s a tremendous opportunity spending time with these gentle giants, and educating the guests about the various animals and their habitats. I normally wake up very early in the morning and head out for a Big Five morning game drive. Then I look after departing guests and start getting things ready for new arrivals. I pack the snack trays for the afternoon drive, head out, and return for dinner.

What do you like about your work?
That I am able to do what I love most… spend time in nature and share my knowledge with our guests.

Which aspects are you least keen on?
I deal with many different types of people, all the time. Not everyone I deal with is nice!

Career highlights to date?
To have been part of the Saving Private Rhino initiative: a non-profit organisation set up to assist private game reserves with anti-poaching courses following the terrible poaching incident that took place at Aquila three years ago.

What are your future goals?
To further my conservation studies and eventually to become a reserve manager.

Advice for someone starting out in your field?
Respect nature and animals in their natural habitat. If you want to become a game ranger, be persistent. Look for ways to volunteer with animal welfare and conservation organisations in your local community. Get a feel for how you engage with animals and how they engage with you. Remember also that conservation is not only about animals but also about the environment, so look for ways to get involved in green projects like recycling and other environmentally friendly initiatives. Be persistent in your studies.

Your job in three words
Beautiful • Fun • Exciting

WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?

It is necessary to study subjects such as ecology or nature conservation at a university or college to obtain a degree or diploma to become a game ranger. The practical part of the course is usually conducted in a hands-on wildlife and nature-based training programme. It is beneficial to register with the Field Guides Association of South Africa (FGASA), which also offers a learning syllabus covering a large variety of topics including animal behaviour, birds, reptiles and amphibians, botany and grasses, ecology, astronomy, and survival.

WHAT SUBJECTS DO I NEED?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Mathematics
• Physical Sciences
• Life Sciences
• Geography
• Design

WHERE CAN I STUDY?

University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Science: Zoology
www.wits.ac.za

University of Johannesburg
Bachelor of Science: Environmental Management and Zoology
www.uj.ac.za

University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Science: Zoology
www.up.ac.za

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma: Nature Conservation
www.cput.ac.za

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma: Nature Conservation
www.tut.ac.za

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFO?

Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa – www.wessa.org.za
South African National Parks – www.sanparks.org
Field Guides Association of Southern Africa – www.fgasa.org.za
EcoTraining – www.ecotraining.co.za

Sources:
www.getaway.co.za
www.gameranger.org
www.wisegeek.com