“I was incredibly honoured to be offered the chance to play a greater part in supporting my brother and sister rangers around the world,” said National Trust ranger Chris Lockyer, who at 26, joins the new UK board of the charity, partly to add a younger person’s view of the current challenges facing conservation.
The Thin Green Line has been supported by the British Royal Family, film stars and many others since its inception in Australia in 2007, said founder Sean Willmore, who handed the new role to Chris Lockyer on a recent visit to the Peak District.
“I was talking to a Masai ranger in Kenya this morning,” said Sean Willmore. “We all live on one planet, and rangers like Chris know many of their colleagues have it tougher than them, so their hearts go out every time they hear of a ranger attacked or killed, or a widow left behind.”
The foundation provides financial support to widows and families of rangers, two or three of whom are reported killed in the line of duty every week, said Sean, often by poachers or illegal loggers in Africa and Asia.
Chris relayed the story of Ranger Muhammed Akram, shot and then beheaded while trying to protect the mountain forests of Abbottabad in northern Pakistan.
“Ranger Akram came across some illegal loggers in the forest. They offered him many times his monthly salary to leave, but he refused to take their bribes, so he was killed for performing his job,” said Chris.
“I’m sure he had an awareness of the importance of what he was protecting. It’s a role that’s not just for us in the here and now but for future generations and the planet as a whole. It was an incredible selfless act, and I think people in those situations need and deserve our support.”
Potential buyers of furniture made from exotic hardwoods should think about Ranger Akram, Chris said. “You could almost say that buying these things contributes to these situations. There’s no need to buy wood from a forest on the other side of the world, there’s plenty of wood produced in this country.”
Chris hopes his new role for The Thin Green Line Foundation will help him raise the profile of rangers around the world. “It will be an opportunity to help people interested in conservation and wildlife to understand that you can’t protect exotic animals like elephants and tigers unless you’re supporting the people who are in the firing line actively doing that work.”
“People here can’t be on the front line with these rangers, but they can be their allies,” said Sean Willmore. “They can organise a morning coffee with their friends, or a film showing, or a sponsored walk and say: ‘these men and women are doing brave work protecting wildlife I care about, so I’m going to stand behind them and give them my support’.”