The massive impact on the tourism and travel industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic left Africa’s wildlife more vulnerable than ever before. African rangers were furloughed, their communities suffered, wildlife crime increased, and the most endangered species faced unprecedented challenges. Great Plains co-founders Dereck and Beverly Joubert realised the impact the lack of tourism would have on this region of Southern Africa and in March 2020 the Great Plains Foundation started Project Ranger, a programme designed to address these unique challenges.
Project Ranger has since supported over 200 rangers who are on the frontline of conservation and preventing poaching in nine countries across Africa. Filling a critical gap in wildlife monitoring, surveying, and anti-poaching operations, this heart-warming and innovative initiative has inspired and has recently reached $1 million in funding support.
“At the very start of the pandemic in 2020, I looked around at what could happen, how bad it might get and took some immediate actions. Knowing that tourism would collapse and that impact on conservation would be devastating, I quickly deployed our own guides and drivers to monitoring work at Great Plains, but then saw that left and right of us everyone was in panic and cutting back on staff everywhere, ” said Dereck Joubert, CEO and co-founder of Great Plains. “These front-line conservation workers don’t earn very much but on furlough of seriously cut back salaries, they and their families would suffer, and conservation would also come to a halt. So, we established Project Ranger to help in areas where Great Plains was not operating.”
Important support for Project Ranger has come from multiple sources in Africa and across the world, from corporate partners, foundations and private individuals. Since its launch, the Jouberts have proudly campaigned about the importance of Project Ranger and developed a number of ways to raise grants including selling Covid-19 facewear and limited-edition wildlife prints by Beverly Joubert.
“In just over a year, we have managed to raise just over $1 million and distribute to over 200 rangers across 9 countries. It varies but can cost us about $500 to keep one ranger in the field for a month. So far, it’s been very effective, and we are very efficient in getting donations in and out within a week, so it is really an emergency fund, which requires continued support,” commented Joubert.
“I’m often asked what someone can do to help conservation in Africa. The catch all effort is to support rangers who are trying to do their jobs. They protect rhinos and elephants, pangolins, and landscapes, they are patrolling around gorillas and go out on horseback or with dogs. It would be impossible for us to pick one project (like saving lions or moving rhinos), that is as sure a bet as supporting rangers and keeping them in the field doing what they do, daily. It has become our most active and enduring effort in the Great Plains Foundation.”
Great Plains Foundation also supports a number of incredible projects on an ongoing basis. Further information can be accessed here.