Last week started with the uncovering of an investigation by Buzzfeed that exposed the extreme violence and abuse committed by some rangers in Asia and Africa. The week ended with the death of Virunga Ranger Freddy Mahamba Muliro, killed defending the park, the wildlife and the fishermen communities of Lake Edward.
This is the story about good and poor role models. It is a dangerous over-simplification to believe that all rangers that have had military training or are active in anti-poaching units are bad. Human nature and behavior is fluid, role models are not infallible. Rangers are real people, and people have flaws. We are not making any excuses for the alleged offenses. If a ranger has committed human rights abuses and violations this is not normal, or excusable behavior, and law should punish it.
Let’s not sugarcoat the offenses nor forget the sacrifices of these other rangers that have lost their lives safeguarding protected areas. We need to be honest and recognize that in each one of us there is possibility for good and evil.
Sometimes role models can fail, and become liars, aggressors, abusers and even killers. Time to accept responsibility, make amends, and bring justice to the victims.
More often role models can inspire us, they show us that the needs of our planet are more important than their own, even if that means scarifying one’s life for Virunga, its animals and communities.
Ranger Freddy Mahamba Muliro becomes the 176th ranger killed in action in Virunga.
(Inspired by – What to Tell Boys When Role Models Fail by Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. Research psychologist)