This World Ranger Day we’re celebrating the work of rangers all over the world, who positively impact their local communities and work tirelessly to protect wildlife and wild places for generations to come.


With your support, we work with conservation partners in New Zealand and abroad to assist or fund rangers doing amazing work on the ground in targeted areas. Whether that’s sending our staff to support Kākāpō Recovery with their annual kākāpō health checks and transmitter changes, or funding Red Panda Network’s Forest Guardians in Nepal and their work protecting red panda from the impacts of poaching.

We’re also proud to support the Sumatran Ranger Project who we’ve been helping to fund since its inception. Our Deputy Curator of Mammals Amy Robbins established this conservation team back in 2016 when she identified a need for reducing human-wildlife conflict in the Leuser Ecosystem. The Leuser Ecosystem is the largest intact forest in Asia and it’s the only place left where Sumatran orangutans, elephants, rhinoceros and tigers co-exist together in the wild.  

Since then, her team has grown to eight dedicated rangers who patrol specific areas within the ‘buffer-zone’, the space between the villages where people live and work, and the forest where the animals live, removing illegal snares and educating villagers on how-to live-in harmony with the forest and its wildlife.

Over the past year, the Sumatran rangers have been working on a new initiative to help forest-edge communities protect their livestock from Sumatran tigers that live in the forest.  

Butting up against the native forest, where the animals live, are oil palm plantations – desolate areas devoid of native plants that cannot sustain wildlife. Village cows are often left to roam and graze on the grass found here, and without any demarcation between the forest and the plantations, these cows become easy pickings for tigers. While this makes sense from a tigers’ perspective, it represents a loss to a villager that may only own a few cows and has planned to sell the meat to support their family.

Devoid of any recompense, villagers can become fed up and can end up retaliating against the tigers that come into the area – a situation the Sumatran rangers absolutely want to avoid. To mitigate this type of human-animal conflict in the past, the Sumatran Ranger Programme have compensated a family for a cow that was taken, but they recognise this is a stop-gap to a longer term issue that needs a solution.  

So how can livestock be protected overnight that reduces the likelihood of a tiger attack? The Sumatran rangers have started to fund and install custom-made livestock corrals in select areas that provide a safe place for cattle to graze overnight. Crafted from locally sourced bamboo, wood and wire, the corrals are relatively inexpensive to create and can fit roughly 30-40 cows. From a New Zealand perspective, this might not sound like a huge number, but this will allow livestock from multiple families to safely house their cows overnight.

In the past, other styles of corral were trialed but did not end up being tiger-proof. A tiger was able to jump right in, and actually caused more damage than if they took one cow. The great news is our design has so far shown to be effective and in areas where the corrals have been built, there hasn’t been any further livestock losses.

Responding to community needs in this way forges a great relationship between the rangers and the communities they’re hoping to serve.  Once the trust is built, the rangers can also help to educate these families not to graze cattle so close to the rainforest. The rangers are currently building a fourth corral at another local village, and with word spreading of these successes from community to community, the hope is there will be more to come.

With the Leuser Ecosystem being home to around 4 million people, there is more than one type of human-animal conflict in Sumatra. The Sumatran rangers are also helping with another local problem, this time involving the ‘king of fruits’! It’s durian season in Sumatra (June – September) and just like humans, orangutans are seeking out this nutritious and high calorie fruit to enjoy.

Another source of livelihood for locals, many durian trees are privately owned by forest edge communities and durian trees are planted close to the forest. This creates an easy pathway for arboreal masters like orangutans to traverse. Reactions to lost fruit will differ from village to village, depending on the level of reliance growers have on durian for income. In severe cases, upset farmers will shoot orangutans with air rifles, often rendering them blind. No longer able to live in the wild, those that are lucky enough to be rescued will end up in the care of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, one of our long-term conservation partners.  


Monitoring an elephant herd in North Sumatra

The Sumatran Ranger Project are currently monitoring an elephant herd in the Leuser Ecosystem, making sure they’re safe and away from human areas in order to limit any damage to crops or property.

Because the stakes are so high, the Sumatran rangers try their best to respond to every call they get and will use a range of noise deterrents to help move the orangutans on from durian trees and back into the forest. This greatly reduces the likelihood that the farmers will respond to the issue themselves. Where possible, they will also try to ‘collar’ the trees or fell neighbouring rubber trees to restrict climbing access to the durian tree.

The Sumatran rangers also have a role providing invaluable data for wider conservation efforts. They’re currently monitoring an elephant herd in the Leuser Ecosystem, making sure they’re safe and away from human areas in order to limit any damage to crops or property. Working with the Sumatran Elephant Project and International Elephant Project, this data is part of a wider census to understand Sumatran elephant status in North Sumatra. The wonderful news is this herd has a youngster in their midst! And the presence of this elephant baby shows that they’re actively breeding.

You support incredible work like this every time you visit or donate to Auckland Zoo. If you’d like to learn more about the Sumatran rangers and Amy’s work in Sumatra watch our 4-part series Wild Work Sumatra and visit the Sumatran Ranger Project website.

This World Ranger Day Sumatran Ranger Project is fundraising to help raise funds for a rangers’ salary. The effects of Covid-19 have hit conservation efforts and wildlife hard and we want to ensure they can maintain a full time presence in these communities to support their needs and those of the critically threatened species that call the Leuser Ecosystem home. If you’re interested in helping further, you can do so here.