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Samoa Rangers Association established

A Samoa Rangers Association has been established as the first step towards setting up the country’s first voluntary rangers organisation.

Kelly Knights, who worked as ranger in Australia’s Northern Territory and is now a resident in Samoa, told the Samoa Observer in an interview that she had alway wanted to set up the rangers service in Samoa to work in protected areas.

"One of the things that I wanted to do when I moved here was to try and set up a Ranger Association here with all the protected area workers that work and live in Samoa, both paid and unpaid,” she said.

"Because in a lot of countries a lot of the people who do this protected work aren't even paid, they just do it because they want to protect their environment and they will give their all to protect their environment."

Ms Knights then set up the association with Olsen Va'afusuaga of the Faleaseela Environment Protection Society, but she said the process will take time with the next step being the International Ranger Federation.

"We have set up an association and now it just a matter of trying to get people in it and we need to sort of getting to the next step which is going to the International Ranger Federation and see if we can get preliminary membership because you can only get whole membership at a World Ranger Congress," she added.

"It is but not quite at the level that it needs to be to be able to be recognised by the International Ranger Federation because you have to go through a whole series of steps and once you've met all that criteria then you can be incorporated into the International Ranger Federation.” 

Currently, the association is recognised by the Council of Oceania Ranger Associations [C.O.R.A.].

But the drive to move the association forward in Samoa has to come from Samoans, emphasised Ms Knights, and she will be available to provide support in the background.

"A ranger association is 100 per cent voluntary-based depending on what level they want to go in, which I think I know, anyway at some point they will need to have some sort of a committee and whether they chose to then raise money to be able to get people to attend things," she said.

There are a number of benefits to incorporate a rangers association, according to the former Australian ranger. These include the opening up of networking between people who face similar challenges in the environment.

"So it's trying to open up the pathways amongst everybody to be able to talk to each other and network, and even within Samoa, like villages don't necessarily speak each village,” she emphasised. 

“But if they realise they are all trying to do the same thing, being able to talk to each other and support each other, because obviously in the future, the opportunity to go to a C.O.R.A meeting or the opportunity to go to a World Ranger Congress is always there.

“Anybody could go, you don't have to be invited, you can go as long as you're part of an association.”

Ms Knights said the late Loto Tuitaalili was the first Samoan to take part in the World Rangers Congress, through a sponsorship that enabled rangers from the Oceania region to attend the congress in Nepal last year. 

The late Loto Tuitaalili attended the congress with Olsen Vaafsuaga.

Life as a ranger is different added Ms Knights as she said it could mean living in a remote location and being outdoors most of the time.

"I love being a Ranger, I love being outside and working outdoors. I am predominantly a field ranger so I would probably spend at least 60 or 70 per cent of my time in the field and the other percentage in the office doing office work,” she said. 

"The main roles of our job there are weed management, feral animal management, visitor management, biodiversity, protecting flora and fauna, fire management. You kind of have all these areas and you do whatever the work is for the day based on those sort of areas.”

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