Sign up and donate to help protect Africa’s wildlife and those who serve to protect it.

By Alyssa Sparacino
October 01, 2020
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Leruati Morijo, a ranger at a remote outpost on Lewa wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, cares for a baby rhino
Leruati Morijo, a ranger at a remote outpost on Lewa wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, cares for a baby rhino
| Credit: © Martin Buzora

If you had to hit pause on IRL races and long-distance travel plans this year, The Wildlife Ranger Challenge and the “Run with Rangers” virtual race are two ways to get a taste of both while giving back to African wildlife communities that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A cheetah prowls the Namib Desert, Namibia
Credit: © David Yarrow

With tourism at a standstill, essential revenue streams that help support conservation efforts across Africa are drying up, and the devastating economic impacts are being felt across the country. As a result, many rangers have been furloughed or had their salaries cut, leaving these precious lands and their wildlife largely unprotected. What’s more, as national and international borders begin reopening, the few rangers left to patrol the territories will be stretched thin and limited in what they can do to protect these vulnerable animals from illegal poaching.

The Wildlife Ranger Challenge, which takes place on Oct. 3, is an effort to help supplement conservation funds and support the fearless rangers. It tasks 80+ teams (and counting) of rangers from all across Africa to compete in a half-marathon distance in their perspective regions while carrying a 55-lb. backpack filled with gear to mimic the typical load they’d carry out on the job.

World record holder Eliud Kipchoge runs with rangers in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya
World record holder Eliud Kipchoge runs with rangers in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya
| Credit: © Jeff Waweru

While you can’t exactly run with the rangers, to show your support, you can run for them on Oct. 3 by completing a 5, 10, or 21 km walk or run at your own pace, wherever you want. (And, no — the heavy backpack is not a requirement for us non-superheroes.) Upon registering, you can make a small suggested donation to either the general conversation fund or directly to a specific ranger team. Plus, every donation is being matched up to $5 million by the event’s main sponsor, the Scheinberg Relief Fund, an organization that was founded earlier this year as a direct response to the pandemic.

Makame Wildlife Management Area rangers collect predation data from a Maasai boma.
Makame Wildlife Management Area rangers collect predation data from a Maasai boma.
| Credit: © Felipe Rodriguez

The race and its cause are also grabbing the attention of some big names in running, travel, and even royalty. Marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, who is also a challenge ambassador, spoke about the privilege he feels to get the chance to run with the rangers from afar. “To run with the people who watch over wildlife when we sleep at night is actually an honor,” Eliud said in a statement.

Two bull elephants at Ol Donyo lodge in the foothills of the Chyulu Hills, bordering the Chyulu Hills National Park in the east of the Amboseli ecosystem, Kenya
Credit: © Jeremy Goss

Prince William — who is a spokesperson and ambassador for Tusk, a charitable organization focused on funding wildlife conservation programs and co-coordinator of the challenge — is using his platform to encourage others to join the fight. “The wildlife rangers of Africa’s protected areas are the unsung heroes of conservation, achieving so much against the odds,” the Duke of Cambridge said in a statement. “It is more important than ever that rangers across Africa have the support they need to carry on their vital work.”

Sign up and learn more at wildliferangerchallenge.org. Whether you choose to walk, run, or just donate, it’s pretty cool knowing your support is making an impact all the way across the globe.