Three WCS rangers have won the African Ranger Award, which recognizes and supports the achievements and efforts of rangers working to combat the precipitous decline of Africa's wildlife species due to poaching, habitat loss, and the illegal wildlife trade.

The WCS recipients include: Marcel Ngangoue, Head of Conservation of Biodiversity and Law enforcement at Nouabale-Ndoki National Park (NNNP) in the park’s headquarters, Bomassa, Republic of Congo; Suleiman Saidu, who works in the Yankari Game Reserve, Nigeria; and Alexandre Nguertou who works in Bouba-Njidda National Park in Yamoussa, Cameroon.

Marcel Ngangoue got his start with WCS first in the village of Makao for NNNP ranger management, and then as the first anti-poaching leader for the Project for the Management of Ecosystems in the Periphery of the NNNP (PROGEPP), starting in 1998 and expanding to cover the Kabo, Loundougou, and Pokola concessions for anti-poaching and buffer zone security for NNNP. He worked as the anti-poaching leader with WCS in PROGEPP from 1998-2003 and then left to go to Garoua a wildlife school in Cameroon for two years. When he returned he went to the USLAB concession in the town of Betou in September of 2005, and then back to NNNP in 2015.

Alexandre Vailia was recruited in March 2017 as “Field Officer” in the WCS BSB Yamoussa project, which supports the binational transboundary protected area complex of the Séna Oura National Park in Chad and Bouba Ndjida National Park in Cameroon. There he worked for the park's lodge as head of personnel and for the Mayo Rey Conservation association, which is a local community association helping in anti-poaching and sensitization work in the area. Vailia directly drives overall anti-poaching activities. Additionally, he is charge of maintaining relations with local populations, and is a valuable air observer during aerial patrols and surveys. He is also involved in training guards, and is known for his knowledge of wildlife and his expertise in anti-poaching techniques. WCS is working in partnership with the Governments of Cameroon and Chad, with funding from German Government (KfW), to establish Bouba-Njidda National Park and Sena-Oura National Park management and wildlife law enforcement systems to secure the elephant, Kordofan giraffe, giant eland, lion and other key wildlife populations of the landscape.

Suleiman Saidu is a Senior Game Guard Ranger at the Yankari Game Reserve in Nigeria. WCS has supported ranger patrols in Yankari since 2009 but took over all ranger patrols in 2014 through a co-management agreement and has worked very closely with Saidu to help better protect the remaining elephants, lions and other wildlife in Yankari. WCS helped to train and mentor Saidu and some other rangers over the years to effectively carry out anti-poaching patrols, human-elephant conflict mitigation, monitoring of lions, prosecution of poachers in the court, and ranger training. Saidu helps to enforce discipline amongst his colleagues and has helped to enforce zero tolerance to corruption in the ranger force. His dedication toward his job has helped set example to the other rangers. He is highly respected by his colleagues and within the local community due to his diligence, hard work, commitment and honesty. Saidu leads the other rangers by example. He has grown through the ranks from a park ranger to a Senior Game Guard Ranger. Under WCS supervision, there has been no elephant poaching in the reserve since 2015. Suleiman has also traveled to other protected areas across Nigeria to help train other rangers.

The awards were launched in 2017 by Jack Ma - the founder of Alibaba Group and a board member of the Paradise International Foundation and seeks to identify 500 rangers over the course of 10 years and will provide grants totaling US $1.5M to support their work.  

A total of 50 rangers were selected this year from 115 nominated rangers. Among them, 19 are from Kenya, five from Tanzania, three from DRC, three from Rwanda, two from Liberia, two from Malawi, two from Zambia, two from Zimbabwe, two from the Republic of Benin, two from Cameroon, one from Ethiopia, one from South Africa, one from Namibia, one from Nigeria, one from the Republic of Congo, one from Sudan, and one from Uganda.

“The responsibility of the rangers is the responsibility of everyone. We only have one earth. If the earth is sick, nobody will be well,” said Jack Ma.

The awards were presented on November 14th at a ceremony in Accra Ghana. During the ceremony, awardees told stories of their work.

Marcel Ngangoue, Head of Conservation of Biodiversity and Law enforcement at Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, described highlights from his 20-year career as a ranger.

Said Ngangoue: “Ndoki is one of the world’s primary forests that has never been exploited or inhabited. It is part of the Tri-National de la Sangha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But protecting Ndoki is increasingly difficult, as poachers apply very complex operating modes with the use of military weapons. But thanks to the successful management of the Nouabale-Ndoki Foundation, a public-private partnership between WCS and the Congolese government, the elephant population has remained stable since 2006.”

Jack Ma closed the ceremony by commending all the rangers for their work in protecting wildlife.

Said Ma: “We will do more for next year, supporting more people, supporting more rangers to wake up more people to protect the earth, to protect Africa, and to protect the wildlife so we can live together.”