Rangers head to Africa

Glenn CordingleyBroome Advertiser

Three indigenous rangers from remote Kimberley communities will embark on their first overseas trip today to help and learn from custodians of a famous game reserve in Kenya.

The trip will be an eye-opening experience for Kija head ranger Imran Paddy, Gooniyandi head ranger Virgil Cherel and Nyikina Mangala ranger Conan Lee.

They have never needed a passport before but that has all changed with their mission to the Maasai Mara National Reserve, famous for its lions, leopards, cheetahs, zebras, gazelles, spotted hyenas, elephants and wildebeest.

The trio will look after wildlife threatened by agriculture, poaching, overpopulation, road-building and development alongside the area’s traditional inhabitants, the Maasai community rangers.

Mr Paddy, from Warmun, said the exchange would provide an opportunity to learn more about the issue of poaching in Africa.

“It makes me sad to understand about the decreasing numbers of rhinos and elephants,” he said.

“I would like to go to Kenya to learn more about the work they do, the training, and I hope this knowledge and experience I can bring back to my community.”

Mr Cherel, from Muludja, 30km east of Fitzroy Crossing, said meeting other rangers and understanding their work would be a highlight of the trip.

“I would like to learn how they work, how they protect their animals, what sort of equipment they use, learn about their culture, how people live and see how they dance — maybe have a go,” he said.

Mr Lee, from Bindan, 110km north of Broome, said he was keen to compare the similarities of ranger work across continents.

“They are doing the same kind of work that we are trying to do — keeping populations of wildlife healthy as well as keeping the cultural side of things very strong,” he said.

The Kija, Gooniyandi and Nyikina Mangala ranger groups are part of the Kimberley Land Council-facilitated Kimberley ranger network.

KLC deputy chief executive Tyronne Garstone said the world-first conservation and cultural exchange program would provide an opportunity for indigenous rangers from Australia to share knowledge, culture and in-the-field experiences with their Maasai colleagues.

“There will be similarities and big differences, but what is for sure is that all participants will have a common bond in their determination to look after endangered species,” he said.

The exchange has been organised by the Thin Green Line Foundation, with support from the Big Life Foundation.

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