Serving as a ranger is more than a job - Guillaume Touck

Posted on 24 July 2018
Guillaume loves his job and the forest
© Jean Pierre Abessolo/ WWF
There are moments when forest ranger Guillaume Touck is split between his loyalty for his job and love for his wife and two children. Touck is one of many rangers who have sacrificed the comfort of their homes and loved ones for their job. The last time Touck saw his family was more than three months ago as he is constantly on his feet, carrying out anti-poaching patrol and biomonitoring missions in and around Boumba Bek National Park in the East Region of Cameroon. He joined Boumba Bek almost a year ago after a decade of service at neighbouring Nki National Park.

In spite of the risks, Touck has led several trans-boundary anti-poaching patrols along the Cameroon-Congo borders resulting in the seizure of arms and ivory and the arrest of hardened poachers. “After some arrests, there are times I have had to spend nights with poachers in the same bed just to ensure they don’t escape,” says Touck.

With the ever-present danger posed by poaching, the lives of rangers are always on the line. “Each time I leave for the forest, I am not sure to return alive. Life in the forest is a constant battle and there is danger from every side. We can either come across a group of armed poachers or wild animals that can attack us,” he states.
In his dozen years serving as eco-guard, this wildlife specialist from the Garoua Wildlife School in the North of Cameroon looks back with pride and fulfilment at his achievements.

He will hardly forget the day in 2011 when he alongside a police colleague serving at a control post in Ntam seized 22 elephant tusks aboard a vehicle. “I think this is my best moment in my job so far. Not only did the action draw a lot of attention nationwide, I also received a bonus of close to 300,000 FCFA ($600) from WWF,” he enthuses.

With the near absence of insurance and paltry pay, working as a ranger in Cameroon is far from rosy. Sometimes, Touck and his colleagues have had bloody confrontations with armed poachers resulting in near death experiences. As he carries out his routine tasks around Boumba Bek, Touck is sometimes haunted by a sad event that occurred in 2009 when poachers opened fire on them during an anti-poaching mission near Nki National Park, shattering the hipbone of his colleague, Moise Njaba Afana. The traumatizing experience has, however, not deterred Touck’s resolve to protect the last vestiges of refuge for threatened wildlife species.

For him, protecting the forest and its biodiversity is more than a job. He believes he is fulfilling a childhood dream. “As a child, I always told my late father I wanted to be a uniform officer and when I had the opportunity to train as an eco-guard, he urged me to pursue my dream,” he says.

Touck says the forest is life. “We, eco-guards, are lucky to have this lofty mission of protecting the ecosystem; this is where gaseous exchange takes place; this is where we will feed from tomorrow; the forest serves as a reservoir for the world,” he explains.

Touck mirrors the life of some valiant eco-guards in the Southeast of Cameroon who are putting their lives on the line just to protect some of our most precious sites. There was a time when eco-guards faced armed poachers with their bare hands. Some have been left with damaged mouths and others maimed for life. Many rangers went for years without formal contracts nor regular pay.

Things have improved considerably; the government of Cameroon has provided better guns to match armed poachers. Rangers also now have contracts and are sure of regular pay. While their tasks remain daunting, there are hopes of brighter days ahead.
Guillaume loves his job and the forest
© Jean Pierre Abessolo/ WWF Enlarge
Guillaume on routine anti-poaching patrols
© Jean Pierre Abessolo/ WWF Enlarge
Rangers on a biomonitoring mission; monitoring wildlife activities inside the forest clearing.
© Jean Pierre Abessolo/WWF Enlarge