The very first winners of the 2021 International Ranger Awards, presented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), were announced today, April 7, in a virtual ceremony. These new awards recognise individuals and ranger teams that have gone above-and-beyond the call of duty to protect wildlife and support local communities. The awards, established with the support of the International Ranger Federation, Conservation Allies, and Re:wild (formerly Global Wildlife Conservatinon), complement the existing and ongoing range of awards offered to rangers around the world.
“Rangers are at the very heart of conservation,” said Kathy MacKinnon, chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. “The stories of the winners of the new International Ranger Awards illustrate the scope and breadth of their work. Rangers protect wildlife and important natural habitats, they work with communities to address conflicts with wildlife and support conservation-based livelihoods, they collect scientific data, and serve as educators and communicators introducing young people and the broader public to the wonders of nature. Whether employed in a protected area or a community-managed reserve, rangers are critical to our global conservation efforts, helping to stem biodiversity loss and protect the important ecosystems that serve as natural solutions to climate change and other global challenges. WCPA is delighted to be a partner in delivering these new awards, which recognise their vital work.”
This year’s 10 winners included eight individual rangers and two ranger teams, selected from among 113 nominations from 43 countries. These nominations totalled 630 rangers: 68 individual nominations and 45 team nominations. All of the winners are rangers in protected and conserved areas and are residents of the countries in which they work. The winners will receive US$10,000 to support their work, a commemorative plaque, and a custom uniform patch to signify their achievement. A further 19 rangers and teams have been recognised with special commendations.
The winners of the 2021 International Ranger Awards are:
Anety Milimo (Zambia):
a research technician and field ranger in Mosi Oa Tunya National Park;
Aung Zaw Myint (Myanmar):
a ranger in Chathin Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar;
Bénévoles au sein de l’Aire Protégée (Madagascar):
a young volunteer ranger team protecting Menabe Antimena Protected Area from forest fires;
Chhay Reap Community Crocodile Wardens (Cambodia):
a team of Indigenous rangers protecting critically endangered Siamese crocodiles in Southern Cardamoms National Park;
Giorgi Abramishvili (Georgia):
a senior ranger in Batsara-Babaneuri Protected Areas;
Mahindra Giri (India):
a range officer with the Uttarakhand Forest Department in Rajaji Tiger Reserve;
Ninfa Carianil (Colombia):
a ranger in Águila Harpía ProAves Reserve in the Colombian Amazon;
Offossou d’Andous Kissi (
: a ranger in charge of community outreach for the Comoé National Park;
Sathish Sundaram (India)
; a forest ranger with the Tamil Nadu Forest Department in Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park;
Sergey Erofeev (Russia):
the deputy director of conservation in Altai State Biosphere Reserve.
The applications for the awards were reviewed by a panel of experts from IUCN-WCPA, the International Ranger Federation, Re:wild, and Conservation Allies. Each nominee was evaluated based on their commitment and dedication to a protected or conserved area; service to or by local communities when resolving threats affecting protected areas; valour in the face of overwhelming challenges or grave threats; impact of their contribution; and leadership to resolve extraordinary situations or crises
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Photo: Aung Zaw Myint (left) helping release a soft-shelled turtle.
Credit: Courtesy of Chathin Wildlife Reserve
Citations from the International Ranger Awards
Anety Milimo (Zambia)
During her 14 years in Mosi Oa Tunya National Park, Anety Milimo has shown exceptional courage and leadership in the face of physical danger on patrols to prevent poaching and wildlife crime. Anety has also dedicated herself to helping local people secure rights to use natural resources, to develop sustainable livelihoods, and to reduce conflicts with wildlife. She is respected among both her fellow rangers and the communities she works with, and has become a role model for young female rangers.
Her achievements and leadership have made a major contribution to increasing wildlife numbers, reducing illegal fires, attracting support for local community development, helping former poachers become game scouts, and building good relations between the National Park authority and local people.
Aung Zaw Myint (Myanmar)
Working in often highly challenging situations, Aung Zaw Myint is responsible for coordinating patrols, identifying threats, investigating illegal activities, and protecting the Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary. He has risked his life pursuing poachers, but has also invested significant time and energy to better understand how local people view rangers, to learn about their needs, and to help them. As a result, he has earned the trust of local villagers, even convincing some hunters to surrender their guns. Aung Zaw Myint’s dedication has helped slow deforestation in Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary compared to surrounding areas and to enable recovery since 2015 of the population of endangered Eld’s Deer. He is regarded highly by his colleagues for his integrity and effectiveness.
Bénévoles au sein de l’Aire Protégée (Madagascar)
Ednah Basil, Hanginirina Jean, Gabin François Albertino, Théodor Dos Santos, Abel Razanazafy, Odysée Lucien
Thanks to the dedication of these six young volunteer rangers of different ethnicities and villages, the forests of Menabe Antimena, predicted to be destroyed by fires by the year 2020, have been saved. The rangers patrol around 150 kilometres each month, selflessly rushing to extinguish any fires they encounter. The team has galvanised the support of communities and local government to fight the fires. As a result, the number of fires has reduced every year since 2017, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite receiving personal threats for reporting illegal activities, the volunteer rangers continue to patrol and protect Menabe Antimena with no compensation for their work. The association they have created, FOSA, is now inspiring the next generation of conservationists to protect Menabe Antimena.
Chhay Reap Community Crocodile Wardens (Cambodia)
Sao Chan, Yem Khoeun, Sim Khmao, Chhem Chhorn, Sao Sarith, Mun Khmao, Un Sam Ul, Sang Chham
The Chhay Reap Community Crocodile Wardens patrol remote rivers, wetlands, and forests of Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains to protect the last viable populations of Siamese Crocodiles. This species has deep cultural significance for the Indigenous Chorng people, to which the team belongs. For 21 years, they have been preventing poaching and habitat destruction, monitoring crocodiles, and safeguarding their community’s unique cultural heritage. The team includes respected village elders, who play a strong leadership role in the community.
Their dedication has helped prevent the extinction of the Siamese Crocodile. They work with their community and collaborate with NGOs and National Park officials, to protect not only crocodiles, but other irreplaceable habitats and species. Their work has been so successful that it is now a model for similar conservation efforts elsewhere in Cambodia.
Giorgi Abramishvili (Georgia)
For most of his 17-year-career, Giorgi Abramishvili was the only ranger protecting the remote Ilto Managed Reserve. To reach the reserve, Giorgi had to walk 35km, crossing the dangerous Ilto River each time. At the reserve, he lived alone for weeks at a time in a simple rustic hut. Despite the hardships, Giorgi’s dedication never wavered; he prevented numerous poaching incidents and strove to build awareness in local communities. At a time when Batsara-Babaneuri Protected Areas suffered lay-offs, he continued patrolling without a salary. As a result of his dedication, IIto Managed Reserve remains untouched. Now no longer able to make the difficult journey to the Reserve, Giorgi continues to work as a senior ranger in Batsara-Babaneuri.
Mahindra Giri (India)
Mahindra Giri has worked for 23 years in and around Rajaji Tiger Reserve. He and his team track and remotely monitor tigers and leopards, and have used the resulting knowledge to help successfully reintroduce tigers to the western part of the Reserve.
Mahindra Giri has been at the forefront of managing conflict with leopards. In challenging circumstances, he was able to convince concerned villagers to allow him and his team to translocate to Rajaji Tiger Reserve a leopard that had killed 24 people. Since then, he has successfully captured and relocated six more leopards, protecting both the cats and villagers from any further conflict. As a result, there have no further deaths from leopard attacks. Mahindra now also works with local communities to peacefully resolve conflicts with elephants.
Ninfa Carianil (Colombia)
Since 2012, Ninfa Carianil and her husband Rufino patrolled and protected the rainforest of Águila Harpía ProAves Reserve in the Colombian Amazon. They built strong links and relationships with the local community, earning their trust and encouraging their interest in its wildlife and conservation. Community members have helped support Ninfa through two recent personal tragedies: the death of her son, Johan Sebastian in 2019, and the loss of her husband to COVID-19 in 2020.
Since then, Ninfa has continued alone to protect the area from hunters, loggers and illegal settlers, to conduct monitoring, to build community support, and to inspire young people. Through her dedication and sacrifice, Ninfa has become a local leader and voice for conservation and for Indigenous women in a remote Amazon community.
Offossou d’Andous Kissi (Cote d’Ivoire)
As Senior Ranger in charge of community outreach, the work of Offossou d’Andous Kissi focuses primarily on the people living around Comoé National Park. He has championed the creation of a children’s library, a documentation centre, an environmental education centre, and an ecotourist camp. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has worked conscientiously to help local people find economic alternatives to ecotourism.
‘Capitaine Kissi’ as he is respectfully known locally, has successfully led challenging negotiations to settle longstanding boundary disputes and to develop innovative agreements for resolving complex conflicts between livestock herders, farmers, and the national park administration. In 2008 he was part of the team instrumental in re-establishing management of the park following a period of civil unrest, resulting in eventual removal of Comoé National Park from the list of World Heritage sites in danger.
Sathish Sundaram (India)
Working on the beaches and in the waters of the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, Sathish Sundaram has rescued numerous dolphins and dugongs from fishing nets and strandings, successfully incubated record numbers of Olive Ridley Turtle eggs, led mangrove restoration, and organised underwater plastic clean-ups. Through targeted and responsive patrols, he has dramatically reduced wildlife crime in the National Park. By collecting evidence of more than 100 poaching attempts, he has enabled recovery of the Park’s sea cucumber population.
He maintains close contact with local communities and has enlisted the help of fishers and local people to protect dugongs and their habitats. To help communities benefit from conservation, he has initiated ‘Kaarankaadu Community-Based Ecotourism’, which has been recognised for its success by the National Biodiversity Authority.
Sergey Erofeev (Russia)
Sergey Erofeev has dedicated his entire 42-year career to the Altai State Biosphere Reserve. He has patrolled every part of the vast Reserve, braving harsh conditions to courageously protect its wildlife from poachers and its land from illegal encroachment. He has also worked closely with the Altai and Tubalar Indigenous communities, enabling their formal involvement in local decision-making through the Zapovednoye Selo Territorial Self-Government Authority.
Sergey is known for his selfless service to colleagues and community members, often braving blizzards to help people get to the hospital over rough, roadless terrain. Widely respected, he is now passing on the knowledge and skills he has gained over a lifetime to the next generation of young rangers.
Paul Salaman, Conservation Allies “Every day, thousands of rangers across our planet put their lives at risk to defend our precious protected areas. With tremendous admiration and heart-felt gratitude the International Ranger Award recognizes the extraordinary efforts of some of the most exceptional rangers to preserve our last sanctuaries for nature.”
Mike Appleton, Re:wild “As well as recognising the winners and helping the places where they work, these awards will also help raise the profile of rangers as responsible, accountable professionals doing vital work on behalf of us all. We are delighted to announce that the launch of the next round of awards will be announced later this year.”
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
IUCN is a membership Union composed of both government and civil society organisations. It harnesses the experience, resources and reach of its more than 1,400 Member organisations and the input of more than 17,000 experts. This diversity and vast expertise makes IUCN the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. Learn more at: https://www.iucn.org/
The IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) is one of IUCN’s six Commissions. It is a premier network of 2500 experts from 140 countries that mobilizes action in science, conservation, policy, and engagement to support well managed and connected parks and other protected areas. Learn more at: https://www.iucn.org/commissions/world-commission-protected-areas
Re:wild Re:wild is on a mission to protect and restore the wild. We have a singular and powerful focus: the wild as the most effective solution to the interconnected climate, biodiversity and pandemic crises. Founded by Leonardo DiCaprio alongside a group of renowned conservation scientists, Re:wild is a force multiplier that brings together Indigenous peoples, local communities, influential leaders, nongovernmental organizations, governments, corporations and the public to protect and rewild at the scale and speed we need. Re:wild launched in 2021 based on more than three decades of combined conservation impact of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and Global Wildlife Conservation, leveraging expertise, partnerships and platforms under one unified brand, bringing new attention, energy and voices together. Our vital work has protected and conserved over 12 million acres benefitting more than 16,000 species in the world’s most irreplaceable places for biodiversity. We don’t need to reinvent the planet. We just need to rewild it—for all wildkind. Learn more at rewild.org.
International Ranger Federation
The International Ranger Federation (IRF) is a volunteer-based non-profit organisation, established to promote the vital role Rangers play in the conservation of the world’s natural and cultural treasures. Learn more at: https://www.internationalrangers.org/
Conservation Allies identifies the most dedicated and efficient local non-profits with a proven track record of major impact on biodiversity conservation around the world. They then partner with those entities to provide technical assistance and help them raise funds to support their work. Learn more at: https://conservationallies.org/