“I quit school when I was 14 and became a poacher. Now I know that it was wrong. I killed our country’s priceless natural resources and our heritage for future generations. It makes me sad to think about it. But now I’m trying to do the right thing and make up for it by protecting our wild animals and our natural environment,” says Albert Chari, who is now a ranger in Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park.
dad was a ranger here in
Gonarezhou and I admired
him and his smart uniforms.
I wanted to be a ranger too
when I grew up. I
grew up in the little village
of Pahlela, where I went to
school for seven years.
“When dad was growing up, he looked after his younger brothers and made sure they had food and could go to school. As a thank-you, our uncles helped us when dad couldn’t afford to pay for secondary school for all his 14 children. But the uncle who was supposed to pay my school fees went abroad to work, which meant that I couldn’t start school. Dad was out in the field for several months at that time, and he didn’t know about this, so he couldn’t help me. I was 14 years old then.”
“When I’m home in the village, I always talk about the importance of protecting animals and the natural environment, and that poaching is against the law. In the future I’d like to visit schools and talk to them about my work and about wildlife conservation,” says Albert.
“Dad was incredibly disappointed and gave us our first lesson in wildlife and conservation. He said that animals were our natural heritage and that they belonged to everyone. And that if we didn’t protect the animals, future generations would only be able to experience them by looking at pictures in books. He also explained that it was the salary from his job protecting animals that provided the family with money for food and everything else that we needed. If the animals disappeared, he would lose his job and our lives would be harder.”
This is Albert with his brothers, who have also chosen to be rangers. From left to right: Shepard, 25, Albert, 33, Tapiwa, 24 and Mike, 31.
A team of hunters is often made up of four people, and each hunter in the team can get 800,000 meticais (USD 13,000) for a single rhino horn.
Back to school!
“It feels great to be able to tell my two daughters that I’m a ranger protecting wild animals and the natural environment, not a criminal killing and destroying things. I feel really great now, but just imagine if I’d stayed at school, what a difference it would have made! I would have been able to understand English better and it would have made it easier to get through the training to be a ranger. Both for understanding the course books and instructions. I really regret quitting school. To all boys who have quit school and are now poaching, I’ve just got one thing to say: You have to go back to school! Get an education so that you can look after yourselves and your families in a way to be proud of when you’re older.”