THIN GREEN LINE with SEAN WILLMORE
Guest Post by Special Guest Sean Wilmore – World Famous Ranger / Surfer / Founder of Thin Green Line
As a ranger and a surfer, I’ve often combined the two… but never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that would be in a land locked state of india, with endangered one horned asian rhinos, tigers (ever present but secretive), elephants, buffalos, hog deers and two crazy Australian film makers/surfers/philanthropic fellas, Jonno and Stefan.
And life’s like that when you’re prepared to step outside the circle a bit. I was thrilled with the opportunity when Jonno contacted me to combine my passion for conservation and the work of rangers on the frontline with surfing and film making.
The ranger network around the world is pretty much a big family, and as part of it the legendary DD Boro, Senior Park Ranger in Kaziranga National Park, helped set up this trip with his son DB. DD couldn’t take us to the park himself as he had just been transferred for his own safety after he arrested a member of parliament for poaching, had a hand scuffle with an AK47 the politician had on him, then in the following months refused to drop the charges….. the politician got a month in jail…DD got transferred and the real threat of a retaliation loomed…but he won’t be silent… he is one of my heros…an award that is often over used for sportsmen and film stars…but one totally appropriate here.
So after some typical Indian “hurry up and wait” we finally hooked up in Guwahati nearing dusk. The 3 hour trip loomed with Kaziranga as the goal and Jonno, Stefan, Campbell and Smriti all pumped to see tigers and the wildlife. Now I soon learned the guys had a good sense for a practical joke, but this ranger wasn’t about to be undone. With the three guys fully exhausted and asleep, I teed up Smriti and DB and we all yelled “tiger tiger”. The three boys sprang bolt upright wavering this way and that, their sleepy eyes trying to focus, us saying “there, there, there”…. they looked like those punching dolls that get whacked down and bounce up as they searched in vain for the tiger…then I couldn’t stop laughing….. but yes they got me back with an “unopened coke”.
Back to the nature and the park. The first night was sleepless as we heard very loud gunfire or fireworks. I thought it was possibly rangers hazing or scaring animals back onto the forest to avoid human/animals confrontations which is a large problem in many places of the world, as population and the resulting footprint moves into the raining “islands of nature” we have kept….but no it was just another Indian Festival!
I couldn’t sleep again so I went walking into Kaziranga to see what was going about and hook up some things with the field rangers..the others slept ..exhausted I think from 14 states before.
By the afternoon, after some mandatory bureaucracy we headed out with some great field rangers, one had been attacked and gouged on his face by a rhino years before. There they were, the endangered Asian one horned rhino, with only 1900 of them left in this region. Although the rhinos and the Bengal Tigers are the iconic species, there are also so many other animals and plants that call protected areas like Kaziranga home.
It’s an amazing experience to be meters from a 2 ton animal that has its prehistoric roots. These rhinos have poor eyesight, but great hearing/smell and a horn and weight to defend any potential threats. Unfortunately it is that horn, like that for its African relative, that make it a target for humans keen to grab hold of it for its immediate $25,000 price tag to later be sold on the asian market as a medical remedy, for up to $100,000. It’s basically made from the same stuff as your finger nails, keratin, so if you think a rhino horn will help you with erection problems- chew your nails!
We saw so many animals but I was here to highlight to the boys the work of the rangers in keeping the animals on the face of the earth. Over 1,000 rangers have been killed in the last 15 years, usually by commercial poachers (not substance poachers). Many of the families are not supported at all..and that’s where The Thin Green Line foundation comes into it. We aim to support the families of rangers killed and prevent further ranger deaths by implementing social conservation programs in areas around national parks.
In the ensuing days as we tracked tigers, rode on elephants, met the rangers on the frontline and felt the hugeness and energy of a place like Kaziranga, I think Jonno and Stefan picked up on the sacrifices these men and women make for conservation. Perhaps for me it was most poignant to see the boys interact with some rangers on an elevated platform, their patrol post deep in Kaziranga. The rangers spend months out here on patrol, facing poachers and sometimes the dangerous animals they protect. They go home for a week, then do it all again, year after year. The least we as a world community can do is to look after them and their families if something goes wrong. These frontline conservation workers are my true heroes. I’m not sure what they made of Jonno and Stefan, but the eccentric duo certainly put a smile if not a bemused laugh across their dials.
Thanks to the boys and crew for highlighting the work of rangers and The Thin Green Line, and for looking after me at the end when I was pretty crook.
Go well you crazy cats….cause I don’t know anyone who likes surfing not surf like they do!
*Surfing 28 States would like to thank Sean for making the effort to meet us in India and introduce us to the inspiring work of Rangers and Thin Green Line. The stories that Sean shared with us opened our eyes to the importance of Rangers worldwide and will hopefully have the same impact on you when it hits the screen. Yeehaww!