March 30 2003
By Melissa Marino
When John Makombo and Dharanidhar Boro go to work, they go knowing
they could be killed.
Mr Makombo, the chief ranger at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
in Uganda, has been shot at several times and carries a gun for
Two weeks ago, Mr Boro was forced to fire on a group of men who
had shot at his party as it patrolled the Kaziranga National Park,
in India's north-east.
Two of the men were killed. The other two fled into the forest.
The men were poachers, hunting rhinoceros in the park.
Poachers are a problem in national parks that are home to endangered
species and Mr Boro and Mr Makombo are there to stop them.
Mr Boro uses 250 staff and 30 elephants to help patrol his 475-square-kilometre
national park at the foothills of the Himalayas, home to the endangered
one-horned rhinoceros and Bengali tiger.
As chief ranger at Bwindi, Mr Makombo is responsible for 350 of
the world's remaining 600 mountain gorillas, whose babies sell on
the black market for more than $US1000 ($A1664).
Poachers kill whole families of gorillas to snatch a baby, so
Mr Makombo must be vigilant to ensure the species' numbers aren't
It's a far cry from the challenges faced by rangers in Australia,
but the pair are here to share experiences at the International
Ranger Federation's Fourth World Congress held at Wilsons Promontory
National Park last week. Jo Hopkins, a congress organiser, said
while the 220 rangers from 42 countries at the congress worked in
very different environments, they shared similar concerns - particularly
in managing visitors in parks and conserving the natural habitat.
Andy Nixon, ranger in charge at Warrandyte State Park and former
Victorian Rangers Association president, said Australia presented
its own challenges.
"I don't want these guys getting all the glory," he said. "Us Aussie
rangers have to deal with some pretty fierce wombats... and we've
got marauding school children."
Mr Nixon said it was an inspiration to meet Mr Makombo and Mr Boro.
"They deal with amazing conflicts, difficult social conditions
at times, so what they do with far less resources than we have is
amazing... I don't have to put my life on the line each day," he
said. "A lot of rangers do die every year around the world in the
protection of our wild places."
The congress was not just about comparing experiences. Two resolutions
from it will be taken to the UN's World Parks Congress in South
Africa later this year. One is to improve safety for rangers like
Mr Makombo and Mr Boro.
Mr Makombo said that while he carried a gun, the best deterrent
against poaching was education.
"I don't want to use the gun, I want to use the mouth so all of
us can understand what conservation is," he said.