Kenya’s rhino rangers are stepping up their fight against wildlife poachers by hosting their first ever ultra marathon to raise vital funds in 2018.
Dozens of ultra runners from around the world will descend on northern Kenya in August for the five-day 230km (143m) event, with all of the proceeds going to fund the rangers’ work.
Some of the rangers will run alongside the competitors, carrying rifles, in parts of the course where poachers are active and wildlife is abundant.
The runners will have to carry their entire food for the event in their rucksacks, plus a medical kit and their sleeping bag. The rangers will provide a base camp and tents at the end of each day’s running.
“The work they do, risking their lives every day to stop the poachers, is incredible,” said 10-time marathon runner and Save The Rhino ambassador Liz Winton, from Oxfordshire.
“I feel like we have to support them because without them there won’t be any rhinos left in the wild. It’s such a brilliant idea.
“I’ve never run in a foreign country before, in that kind of heat or at that altitude, so this is going to be the challenge of my life. I’m in awe of the rangers and all they do to save these beautiful creatures.”
Kenya has passed new legislation that can mean life sentences for convicted poachers.
“You can have all the technology in the world, but it’s worthless without the work of the rangers and the local community,” said Cathy Dean, chief executive of Save the Rhino.
“They are extraordinarily brave, risking their lives day and night. The poachers are extremely well equipped and the money from this event will see that the rangers are too.”
Rhino horn now fetches more than gold on the black market, with countries like China and Vietnam providing a ready demand for the poachers, where it is often used in ‘medicines’ or given as a gift to signify status or wealth.
Up to 50 runners will take part in the For Rangers Ultra, which starts in Lewa, northern Kenya, on 1 August.
“I won’t stop until I know that we have done all we can,” added Liz Winton. “This race is such a special idea in such an amazing place.
“It’s not about your time or where you finish, it’s about going out there and making a difference so the rangers can win their battle.”