When rangers around the world stand together, this not only helps them but also precious nature and humankind depending on it. The partnership between rangers from El Salvador and the Bavarian Forest National Park is a truly encouraging example. Its latest boost: Three rangers from El Salvador visited the Bavarian Forest National Park and the European Ranger Congress.

“I need to make people aware of the damage we are doing to future generations and to ourselves.” This is how Mauricio Portillo understands his job. He and his fellow rangers from El Salvador recently not only trained with their colleagues in the Bavarian Forest National Park, but also gave the European Ranger Community at the 5th European Ranger Congress an insight into their work.

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The visit was made possible by the initiative of Flüchtlingshilfe Mittelamerika (Refugee Aid Central America), the support of other internationally active organisations such as the International Ranger Federation and the Thin Green Line Foundation, as well as by colleagues from the Bavarian Forest.

Networking with European rangers for famous biodiversity and UNESCO sites of El Salvador

Working for nature conservation in El Salvador is as valuable in view of the highly valuable nature conservation areas, many of which are of UNESCO quality, as it is difficult in terms of the political circumstances. “In my area alone there are 486 plant species and more than 160 bird species. They all need someone to protect them, because they cannot protect themselves”, tells Portillo.

Fellow ranger Fredi Magaña adds how he would like to advance this important ranger work through their visit to Europe – in El Salvador as well as in Europe: “There are people here who know a lot about what I do as a ranger and I can also share my knowledge with them. That’s why my goal here is to find new alliances for the management of our environment”. And it is precisely for this purpose that Wilberth Mejia, as the third ranger from El Salvador, hopes: “Just as we have come to Europe for the first time, one day people from Europe will come and visit our villages.”

“Thanks to the exchange with rangers from the Bavarian Forest, we realized that we are not alone in the world in our commitment to biodiversity.”

Fredi Magaña, Ranger from El Salvador

Biodiversity protection becomes increasingly difficult

What visitors will find in the country, famous for its wildlife diversity, are stunning natural treasures such as mangrove forests, rainforests and volcanic areas. But the protection of biodiversity in El Salvador is increasingly difficult. Comparable to many other places in the world, the overexploitation of resources is one of the biggest problems.

To face the resulting challenges with combined forces, rangers in El Salvador have joined together in a ranger association in 2019: the “Asociación de Guardarrecursos El Salvador (AGES)“, Ranger
Association El Salvador. Today, 89 members form the association. Its founding was made possible by the partnership with the rangers of the Bavarian Forest National Park and the support of Flüchtlingshilfe Mittelamerika. National Park ranger Mario Schmid in particular has accompanied his colleagues from El Salvador with practical help, advice and on-site visits. As Fredi tells the participants at the ERC, the support from the Bavarian Forest made him and his colleagues really feel for the first time: “We are not alone in the world.” Their example was the basis for the workshop “Founding a ranger association using the example of El Salvador and its partnership with the Bavarian Forest National Park” at the European Ranger Congress.

“Firstly, they taught us that we rangers in El Salvador have to organize ourselves to become stronger. Now we see here in Europe that, across the world, we rangers are one very big family.”

Wilberth Mejia, Ranger from El Salvador

For Wilberth Mejia, the impetus to found an association is probably the most concrete support from Germany: “Firstly, they taught us that we rangers in El Salvador have to organise ourselves. Because organised we are stronger. That’s how the idea of the association was born.” Whereas before everyone stayed in their own section, the rangers of El Salvador got together for the first time. “And now, at the European Ranger Congress, we see that, across the world, we rangers are one very big family. Thanks to all this, three rangers from El Salvador are now able to attend a European Congress for the first time.”

Among rangers (from left): Fredi Magaña (El Salvador), Mario Schmid, Mònica Hinojosa (both Bavarian Forest NP), Mauricio Portillo, Wilberth Mejia (both El Salvador). ©Bavarian Forest National Park

Training includes school visits: an area of great importance for rangers from El Salvador

In the Bavarian Forest itself, the ranger colleagues of course are also on hand for their guests from El Salvador. Among other things, the programme of the eight-day training on the work in the National Parks as visitor management and environmental education also included the visit of two schools of the partner communities San José Ingenio and Majadita in the Montecristo National Park.

Such school visits are something that the three are not at all unfamiliar with: “Some of the important work I do in my area is environmental education with the schools surrounding the protected area”, tells Mauricio Portillo. And for Wilberth Mejia, it is above all the responsibility for these future generations that drives him: “We know that we have to conserve our planet, our forests, for our children, so they don’t  tell us one day, my dad did nothing for this planet.”

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