*Ranger Abel ResÃ©ndiz shares his positive views on protecting the environment after his former life as a hunter.*
Life for Abel ResÃ©ndiz changed dramatically when he got his first secure job as a reserve ranger working with the World Land Trust (WLT) project partners in central Mexico. Now he has a regular income to support his family.
Before Abel worked as a reserve ranger for conservation organisation, Grupo EcolÃ³gico Sierra Gorda (GESG), he was a migrant worker in the USA and hunted the animals he now protects in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve (SGBR). In many of the countries where WLT works, *hunting is a vital way of earning a living and providing food for the family. So giving local people a secure alternative income is a win-win situation. *Abel explained*:*
” “When the SGBR was created in 1987, law enforcement increased and for the first time we were told poaching was illegal.” The reserve created more jobs in the area and Abel proved himself to be a steadfast and reliable employee, starting with repairing boundary fences. “From this, I slowly began to understand conservation and really get involved”, said Abel.
Abel works with local people, spreading the importance of protecting the environment and encouraging them to get involved in GESG”s work. He said:
“Sometimes we ask people that live nearer to the reserves to help with the patrolling. We use horses or we hike to access some of the reserves; it can be a whole day ride or hike. The Sierra is not easy terrain and it”s big!”
*Having learnt about the importance of protecting the natural world through his work with GESG, Abel has become a true defender of the wild*. He now protects the reserve”s wildlife from hunters and environmental damage. Needing to act sensitively, Abel said:
“Because we work in an area where everybody knows you, you have to be careful when finding illegal activities in or outside the reserves, as they may be your friends, relatives or neighbours.”
When this happens Abel reports everything to the GESG staff and together they ensure that this does not cause any problems between Abel and his neighbours.
*Abel”s life has changed dramatically since becoming a conservationist; now he takes pride in protecting the animals and forests*.
“I really appreciate not having to work as a migrant worker in the USA”, said Abel, “and instead of damaging forests I am now in charge of protecting them, which is an extremely nice change.” He added: “*I”m convinced the forests and animals are in trouble and they need all our help.”*
With the help of ranger Abel, beautiful habitats like this river in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve are being protected, creating a safe environment for species to live. “© Roberto Pedraza Ruiz
The Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve (SGBR) in central Mexico covers 946,000 acres (383,000 hectares) and is *the most ecologically diverse area in the country*. Due to the reserves vast diversity there are a wide range of plants, terrain and animal species present. Even though this is called a reserve there is still a large amount of land within the SGBR which remains under private ownership and is therefore unprotected.
*The WLT and project partner GESG are working together to enable the purchase of this privately owned land to produce everlasting wildlife reserves*. The management and protection of these diverse remote reserves would not be possible without the work of dedicated rangers, such as Abel, who is being funded through the *Keepers of the Wild appeal.*