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Game ranger jobs

The role of a game ranger

There is often confusion between the terms field guide and game ranger. In South Africa (and across much of Africa), a game ranger is a law enforcement role that serves at the front line of conservation in protected areas. This is a highly demanding and specialised job, and responsibilities will differ slightly depending on where the game ranger is based.

There are similarities between field guides and game rangers, of course. Both positions require a foundational knowledge of wildlife, ecosystems and conservation. Through the Bushwise International Safari Guide course, aspiring game rangers can begin their career development and gain practical experience. But what is a game ranger, and how can you find a game ranger job?


Game ranger


What is a game ranger?

When we discuss game rangers here, we’re referring specifically to the role found in national parks and protected areas in African countries. Outside of Africa, in the UK and USA for instance, game ranger carries a different meaning. 

Game rangers are also known as field rangers. They are the “boots on the ground” of conservation. A game ranger is first and foremost responsible for protecting the natural environment and maintaining the integrity of an ecosystem. They enforce the rules and regulations of a protected area, participate in game research and monitoring, conduct anti-poaching patrols, and assist with population management.


Day-to-day tasks in a game ranger job may include:

  • anti-poaching patrols along fences and throughout reserves

  • monitoring the health and well-being of wildlife

  • conservation research and species monitoring

  • enforcing hunting and fishing licence regulations

  • game capture and reintroductions

  • population management

  • maintaining infrastructure

  • controlled burns and invasive species removal

  • enforcing reserve rules such as driving speeds

  • environmental education and community engagement

  • resource planning and administration.

What's the difference between game ranger and field guide?

While the foundational knowledge needed for these roles is the same (and you can begin this journey through a Bushwise wildlife course), the functions are very different. Field guides are the face of a reserve or lodge, spending their time with guests and interpreting the natural world. Game rangers patrol protected areas and ensure their biological integrity.

Game rangers are actively involved in conservation and game management. They work throughout a reserve to ensure rules are enforced, animals are protected and habitats are secure. Field guides show this landscape to their guests, sharing their knowledge of conservation and wildlife. They serve as the link between the natural world and tourists. Both of these jobs serve essential functions in the effective management of a protected area, national park, or reserve.

If you’re interested in becoming a field guide and working with guests, you’ll find some useful information here.

What kind of game ranger jobs are there?

The role of a game ranger is as diverse as the parks and reserves in which they work. For example, in Kruger National Park, game ranger jobs include district rangers and section rangers. Kruger is divided into 22 sections and each section has a dedicated section ranger. These sections are grouped into four districts (north, south, east and west), and each district has a dedicated district ranger. As a game ranger gains experience and responsibilities, they could move up in the park’s management.

What qualifications do game rangers need?

Game ranger jobs typically require a matric qualification (or similar), training on natural resource management, a code 8 driver’s licence, and may require CATHSSETA qualifications. There may also be a physical fitness expectation, as this is often a highly physically demanding job. 

Additional skills and experience that could be required include: firearm competency and registration, code EC drivers licence, professional driving permit (PrDp), language skills, management experience, nature conservation diploma, K9 handling experience, and knowledge of conservation legislation. 

One option to start your training as a game ranger is by taking a field guide course, such as the Bushwise International Safari Guide course. This is an excellent way to gain knowledge and experience that will benefit you as a game ranger.

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