the official body representing rangers around the world

 


2014 IRF Award Winners

The International Ranger Federation, with its partners The Thin Green Line Foundation and the IUCN, are proud to make available these rangers/conservation awards to recognise the passion, dedication and inspiration of so many park rangers and frontline conservationists.

 

Dr. Jane Goodall Hope and Inspiration Ranger Award

Luigi Eybrecht of Bonaire received the award for overcoming significant personal and family issues, and never losing touch with his connection to nature.  He rose from being in a boys’ home to being a full-time ranger, spending his time educating junior rangers and protecting his beloved Boniare’s marine ecosystem.

More about Luigi

It’s impossible not to be impressed with Luigi.  Born on the small and biodiversity rich island of Bonaire, Luigi had the odds stacked against him and learned important life and leadership lessons early on. Facing violence and instability at home, Luigi was placed in a boys’ home at the age of six. By the time he was eight Luigi was looking after the younger boys in the home and sharing with them his confidence and appetite for exploration.  Luigi noticed something was missing from the curriculum – information about nature and the natural history of Bonaire.  Luigi was devouring any literature he could find about the subject.  Luigi got active in the Junior Ranger program, chose to turn away form alcohol and drugs as a young kid  and he hasn’t looked back since.

Now a full-time ranger, Luigi is paid to do what he loves, but that is certainly not why he does it and he has also not lost his commitment to the Junior Rangers. At 21 years old, he continues to volunteer nearly all of his free time as a youth mentor and Commander for the ranger program he helped build.  Just this year, Luigi has helped developed projects for the Junior Rangers to join the Coral Reef Restoration Foundation to grow and replant Acropora coral in the shallow waters of Bonaire.  He is also on schedule to become a SCUBA Divemaster by October and has helped almost 20 local youth get SCUBA certified.  Luigi will tell you that nature has so much to offer that there is always more to learn. When Luigi was called to notify him of the award – he was  unavailable – he was of course night diving to capture introduced Lion Fish.

 

IRF Lifetime Achievement Award

Jean-Pierre Jobogo Mirindi of the Democratic Republic of Congo received the award for his lifelong dedication to the protection of nature and of his fellow rangers and families throughout the DRC’s difficult and dangerous conflicts. He has been shot and had rangers killed next to him but he has never wavered in his commitment to conservation.

More about Jean-Pierre

Despite the difficult conditions in the country during its political crisis, Jobogo has never abandoned his post and his team and continues to defend the extraordinary natural heritage in Virunga National Park.

With long experience in conservation, Mirindi was elected by his colleagues in 2003 to chair the Transboundary Rangers Committee (DRC & Uganda).  This committee was elected to focus on transboundary issues including problem animals, community education, ecosystem management, community tourism, and anti-poaching movement along the boundary.

He proved his leadership ability when he helped save his colleagues who nearly fell in an ambush.  He commanded the section of patrol rangers that made sure everybody was safe, and he was the last to pull out – resulting in his being shot in the left foot.

He again proved his bravery when the park station was seized by CNDP rebels and 15 rangers families’ did not have a chance to pull out before the attack.  Mr Mirindi and Director Emmanuel de Merode initiated contact to negotiate the UN intervention to evacuate the rangers families’; he left his family to go with the UN troops to the Rwindi park station.  The extremely tense situation included heavy bombing; the team were to hide 48 hours in a ditch together with UN units during heavy crossfire bombing between the government army and rebels.

Finally, they managed to rescue the rangers and retrieve some weapons and valuable items from the park office including 280 Kg of elephant ivory.  His return gave him more credit from his colleagues as a brave liberator of the 15 families of rangers.  He also played an important role in the management plans for the Virunga and Kundelungu National Parks.  He has established a strong network connecting the DRC rangers to the rest of the world by initiating the Congo Rangers Association, an IRF affiliate.

With good communication talent, he is always available to raise conservation awareness and lobby at during international conferences.  Through his message to the world, he is also an advocate for protecting the protector and assisting the widows whose partners lost their lives in the course of duty.

Additional special commendations for the IRF Lifetime Achievement Award
Ramesh Kumar Thapa  (Nepal)
Robert (Bob) Reid  (UK)
Gerardo L. Ledesma (Philippines)
Stephan Bognar  (Cambodia)
Gordon Miller (UK)

Young Conservationist Award

Co-winners:

Tiwonge Mzmara of Malawi received the award for her dedication to bird research and  and community  education under challenging cultural and financial situations.

More about Tiwonge

As an ornithologist, Tiwonge Mzmara has helped provide much-needed current biodiversity data for protected areas to both government and nongovernment organizations.  Information on the status of both threatened and non-threatened species in Malawi is often lacking or dated.  Her work has concentrated on collating information on species that are of conservation concern.  For example, on Mount Mulanje Forest Reserve, she found  that the  endemic Yellow Throated-apalis has a population of about 10 000 individuals,that they continue to prefer evergreen scrub under cedar forest patches, and that they are breeding successfully.

She also has advised on how to clear  firebreaks on the mountain in order to support Blue Swallow conservation.  Since 2008, she has conducted long-term bird banding and used the opportunity to train museum staff in this skill.  She has also introduced the field of bird conservation to students from across the country.  On Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve, there are now signposts that highlight the status of the forest as an Important Bird Area.  She made signs and pictures of endangered birds to help the community  learn about them. She recently supervised a student studying the status of the Blue Swallow.  As well, Liwonde National Park now has a draft conservation plan for the threatened Lilian’s Lovebird due to the work Tiwonge has been doing there in the last 4 years.

She has managed to get optimal results with limited funding.  She has managed to encourage and instill the spirit of volunteerism among the locals and she never loses an opportunity to educate someone.

Tiwonge is a Malawian female working in the field of conservation. This is very rare in Malawi.  Therefore, to be able to achieve what she has, she had to break some cultural norms, be self-motivated, and help families and friends to respect her choice of career.  Another challenge that she faced was the fact that her focus area in conservation was birds, a group of species that are not on the high-priority list in most protected areas.  Trees and big mammals are often what most PA’s are monitoring and actively caring for.  Therefore, getting national parks management to agree on a conservation plan specific for a bird species shows they have come to respect the need for this.  Tiwonge is now the key reference person on bird issues for national parks, forest reserves and the private sector. She has put in a lot of work to get people to starting thinking of birds in all their conservation work.


Max Jenes of Tanzania
received the award for his tireless and brave work protecting elephants and communities via his community-based anti-poaching operations.

More about Max

Max Jenes accepted the enormous task to coordinate the anti-poaching project known as the Ruvuma Elephant Project (in the southern Selous Game Reserve ecosystem and bordering on Mozambique’s Niassa National reserve), from late 2010. This area is one of the most notorious parts of Africa for cross border ivory poaching, and also a hotspot for illegal timber trade and other contraband including illegal firearms.

He had very little prior work experience, and none in anti-poaching.  Several of Max’s older colleagues in the wildlife sector told him that the task he accepted was an impossible one, the project would not last, and he would almost certainly be jobless within a matter of months.  Nonetheless he was prepared to embrace the challenge. Max understood the risks and knew that there any mistakes would almost certainly mean failure.

Max received threats on many occasions, and at times he had to overnight in unpredictable places in hostile areas to avoid being harmed and at times he and his closest colleagues have been stuck for days in the field during the wet season (with rivers up and no bridges to cross) and had to sleep in the vehicle, with limited to no meals, until they were able to get out.

Thanks to Max’s tireless efforts, ongoing 7-day weeks, facing and overcoming discomfort zones, leadership of his colleagues, training and mentoring of approximately 200 field rangers (mostly community members) to implement ongoing patrols and special operations, the situation has greatly improved.  At the outset of the project, every single patrol encountered carcasses of poached animals, predominantly elephants.  Today, 2.5 years later, the rapid decline of elephants has been reversed.

Reaching this point included the project having arrested over 563 people and seizing 805 illegal firearms, as well as having won the hearts and minds of the village and farming communities in the area through implementing a highly successful Human-Elephant Conflict management programme and introducing an innovative conservation education syllabus into the local schools.


More information on each award (PDF):

Dr. Jane Goodall Hope and Inspiration Ranger Award

IRF Lifetime Achievement Award

Young Conservationist Award