Rangers around the world risk their lives to protect wild animals, and in 2007 the International Ranger Federation declared July 31 World Ranger Day.

Cambodia first celebrated it in 2017 and today institutions, national and international organisations, monks, students and local authorities participate in the celebration.

For its part, the Ministry of Environment issued a press release encouraging people to value rangers.

The purpose of celebrating the day is to enhance public understanding about the role of rangers in the Kingdom who sacrifice their lives to protect the environment and natural resources, the ministry said.

Former Prey Lang activist Noun Vansuy was selected environmental officer of the year in Chey Sen district last year. He said protecting the environment and natural resources is not the only duty of rangers.

“It is hard to warn offenders to stop their actions when the public doesn’t realise the importance of natural resources. Hunting wild animals, logging and land encroachment are the major obstacles for me as a ranger.

“My message to the public is to stop all illegal activities that destroy natural resources as it is valuable for human survival in the world,” he said.

Thin Green Line Foundation founder and president of The International Ranger Federation Sean Willmore said on Thursday on the foundation’s website that about 150 rangers lose their lives in the line of duty every year. Over 1,000 rangers have died in the last decade.

“Violent confrontations from local people trespassing in national parks and protected areas to graze livestock or harvest timber for fuel has also contributed to ranger fatalities this year.

“Deaths from diseases, including malaria and dengue fever were common in previous years. This year several rangers have succumbed to Covid-19,” he said.

Poachers and other illegal hunters and loggers are a major threat to rangers along with militia groups challenging authorities in many different regions.

Rangers working in remote areas face many risks including vehicle accidents on poor roads, drowning and fire.

Willmore said rangers also faced danger from the wildlife they strive to protect. “Many rangers in Asia and Africa have been killed attempting to move wild elephants from villages. Tigers have killed several rangers as a result of accidental encounters,” he said.

A 2016 study conducted by WWF and Global Wildlife Conservation found that out of 40 countries where rangers were surveyed, 28 per cent did not provide them access to health insurance, 35 per cent had no life insurance and 53 per cent failed to provide long-term disability insurance.

Another survey that same year found that 66 per cent of rangers in Asia and Africa were not given the equipment they needed to be successful at their job.