Sixty two forest and wildlife guards have been killed through fatal attacks and cold blooded murder by illegal chainsaw and galamsey operators in the last two years.
In March, this year, two persons were murdered in cold blood by wildlife poachers and illegal chainsaw operators at the Kyabobo National Park in the Volta Region and the Abofour Forest Reserve in the Ashanti Region.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Mr Samuel Afari Dartey, made this known at a press briefing on the alarming rate at which wildlife and forest guards were being killed in the country.
He said a total of 120 wildlife and forest guards had been attacked between 2011 and 2013, explaining that “some were attacked in church while others were attacked in their offices with guns and machetes”.
These attacks, he said, had caused permanent injuries to some of the commission’s staff, irreplaceable destruction of operational logistics and the vandalisation of official vehicles of the commission.
Mr Afari expressed worry about the leaders of society who watched people in the community engage in such dreadful acts, knowing the effects on the community.
“What is extremely worrying is that these attacks take place within communities where opinion leaders and influential individuals are conscious of the effects of these acts on the ecology,” he said.
He called for immediate action against illegal chainsaw and galamsey operators and wildlife poachers to ensure that the national resources were protected.
He urged all stakeholders, including metropolitan, district, municipal assemblies, the law enforcers and media to partner the commission to tackle the problem at hand.
“The level of impunity exhibited by these nation wreckers makes it imperative that we collectively address these attacks on forest and wildlife guards and illegal forest and wildlife exploitation as a nation,” he noted.
He indicated that the commission was going to collaborate with the military and enhance the Rapid Response Unit to check the increasing rate of brutality against the forest and wildlife guards.
Meanwhile, the Centre for the Management of Impact of Climate Change (CeMICC) has called on the government to provide greater protection and further security for its forest rangers.
A statement signed by Joshua Awuku-Apaw, Executive Director of the CeMICC, suggested that reforms should be carried out to halt the growing number of violent attacks against the Forest Commission’s rangers and guards, thereby ensuring the future of the country’s forest reserves.
The CeMICC argued that if the government did not do more to ensure greater safety for the Forestry Commission’s rangers , then potential rangers would be dissuaded from pursuing the occupation, creating a nationwide shortage and, in turn, allowing illegal miners, loggers and farmers to further destroy the nation’s forest reserves with impunity.
The CeMICC proposed a system that would ensure greater protection for rangers while on duty and financial assurances to those harmed on the job.
The CeMICC appealed to the government not only to arm their rangers and deploy larger patrol groups, but also give them military training to better equip them with the skills for handling hostile and dangerous situations. In addition, the organisation said it was keen to ensure that the government provided guarantees to financially support the families of those killed in the line of duty.