The Paradise Foundation, a Chinese conservation charity co-led by Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma, on Tuesday awarded grants to 50 African rangers working to protect wildlife on the continent.
The African Ranger Awards honored 50 rangers on the frontlines of conservation in 17 countries, giving each a $3,000 grant. There were 146 nominations from 21 countries in all. The award winners represent some of the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 rangers currently working in Africa.
The rangers often face significant danger in their work. A 2016 survey found 82% of African rangers had been at risk of death while on patrol, and 60% had been directly attacked by poachers. More than 1,000 of Africa’s rangers lost their lives protecting wildlife and wild habitats between 2000 and 2016.
Five rangers who lost their lives were among the 50 award winners. Their families received their prize grants.
“These rangers are sacrificing so much to protect Africa’s wildlife against illegal hunting and trading. With this award, we hope both to recognize their important work and to bring greater attention to the ways in which we can all contribute to protecting the natural world,” Ma said.
“These awards were not only set up to reward rangers, but also to alert more and more people to pay attention to rangers, and to the protection of wild animals and the natural environment,” he added.
The winners included:
- Asha Mnkeni, the first female ranger employed by Tanzania’s National Parks service
- Craig Williams, who helped reduce rhino poaching where he works in South Africa by 20%
- Fernando Macamero, who evicted illegal miners helping poachers in a Mozambique national park; faced a backlash, including from his family; and was later blinded while on duty
- Jeneria Lekilelei, a Kenyan herdsmen working to convince his peers to not kill lions
- Nanyuki Lapalee, a Kenyan former poacher now using his bush skills for conservation and working to reform other poachers
- Voster Mweene, whose team has patrolled 43,000 kilometers of a Zambian national park, increasing arrests and convictions of poachers significantly
In July 2017, while on his first-ever trip to Africa, Ma announced that the Paradise Foundation would spearhead a 10-year, wildlife-conservation program on the continent. The program will include connecting Chinese charitable organizations and Africa’s nature reserves to support conservation efforts and fight back against poaching.
The Paradise Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation, a charitable organization established by Alibaba Group, are sponsoring in full both the cash rewards for outstanding rangers and the program’s management expenses for the next 10 years, which are expected to be $1.65 million in total.
Over the next ten years, 500 rangers will be recognized through the program. The Paradise Foundation said that it hopes the African Ranger Awards will continue to raise public awareness around the issues of wildlife conservation and sustainable development.
“Compared to everything these rangers sacrifice, our contribution is small,” said Shawn Zhang, CEO of the Paradise Foundation. “We hope that these awards will show them our appreciation and draw attention to their important work.”