Bolivian Park Ranger, a passion not a simple job. Environment 101, January 2012

Pagina Siete had the excellent idea to publish the Tatiana Sanabria’s report about Bolivian Park Rangers’ commitment with biodiversity. In the picture, Marcos Uzquiano, when he was working at Madidi National Park, for full Spanish article, please use the link down below:

Being a Park Ranger in Bolivia is a lifestyle. These sentinels of biodiversity take on their shoulders the weight of unpredictable days and intense days. Their work is synonymous with charm and commitment, danger and sacrifice… and, despite being of great importance, pay is very little.

At the national level, there is an estimated of 400 Park Rangers working in 22 protected areas in the country. Only in the Madidi National Park, La Paz, that has 1.9 million hectares (equivalent to 18,750 square kilometers), there are 31 rangers working.

One of the main tasks of the Rangers is to carry out patrols which can last for days and even weeks. If they are going by river they use motorized canoes; if on ground, they travel in motorcycles or cuadratracks, although with the natural characteristics and budgetary constraints, many patrols are carried out on foot.

Other function is visiting communities living in the area, make environmental awareness campaigns in schools and also to provide relief, rescue and information services to visitors.

When forest fires occur they are able to control them, but often they are limited by the lack of equipment.

The work is so wide and unpredictable, they can work in a comfortable Office, in a rustic and makeshift shelter, in sleeping tents, in the shade of trees and on the banks of a river, or suddenly they can spend nights awake when emergencies occur.

In this routine, in contact with nature, while it may be captivating, it also becomes a threat which professionals have come to expect.

Although there are poisonous snakes, jaguars, pumas, electric eels, caimans and anacondas, and they are on the lookout for prey, the familiarity of the Rangers with the environment makes them quickly lose any phobia and they learn to live in a continuous Truce with these species, allowing them to enjoy contact and extreme experiences but fascinating.

However, the worst threat comes from people that impinge illegally to these territories, including loggers, miners, hunters, fishermen and settlers.

Passion in the veins

Despite these problems, why do they remain in Office? Basically the passion for the ecosystem; something to live and feel to understand.

“The greatest satisfaction is knowing and explore new places where many do not have the privilege of being. Living in a natural area like Madidi is something invaluable: wake up with the sounds of the jungle, observe animals in their natural habitat and enjoy spectacular scenery”, says Uzquiano, who temporarily retired from this Office;” He worked a few years as a tourist guide, but he returned to his old passion.

This Office also forms a circle of brotherhood between the Rangers. “We share every day experiences, joys, sorrows, defeats and difficulties, always with optimism and hope that someday society will assess and means the service we provide for the sake of biodiversity”.

And although it is clear that work conditions need to be improved, most Bolivian Rangers share the commitment to protect, above all, the nature and wildlife.

Being a Park Ranger in Bolivia, is not only the opportunity to live with the immense natural wealth, as it is to have the satisfaction that gives the feeling that they are helping, even with a grain of sand to the preservation of a unique paradise.

Bolivia has 22 national parks

Bolivia lies between the eight countries with greater diversity in the world. Thanks to its natural wealth, now boasts 22 national parks covering nearly 20% of the national territory.

National protected areas system includes 13 national parks, two protected areas of integrated management, two biosphere reserves, four reserves, flora and fauna and an indigenous territory.

These natural spaces are mainly found in La Paz and Santa Cruz, although some are distributed in Tarija, Cochabamba, Chuquisaca, Beni, Pando and Potosí.

In the natural areas and national parks of Bolivia there are 325 mammal species, 18,000 types of plants, 186 species of amphibians and more than 1,200 bird species.

I have met personally a few good men and women, park rangers who in my opinion love what they do, there is no other explanation why someone would decide to abandon city life; from potable water, sewage, good roof and shelter on top their heads; not to mention food and human companionship, they forego all the above and simply do protect and living inside nature. Kudos to all of them!

And be aware that this job is not for political appointees or occasional political groupies, they do not get paid enough, they do not have job security and still, they are out there protecting our environment.

Published by Bolivian Thoughts

Senior managerial experience on sustainable development projects.

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