The Son of Poacher who Become a Ranger

Written by: Jampel Lhendup (Forester, Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan)

As a son of poacher, I grew up with wildlife products. I accompanied my father when he went hunting from the age of five, where he taught me how to identify different tracks and signs of wildlife, and how to set snares and traps. He trained me in the ground of hunting perfectly. My whole family were surrounded by it; from my six siblings to my grandpa, who accidently killed his own brother whilst hunting when he shot without confirming the target. He spent the rest of his life in jail.

Jampel Lhendup seeing his son after a long patrol.

Jampel Lhendup seeing his son after a long patrol.

On several occasions we were chased by rangers but they could not catch us. I don’t know whether it’s because my father and I were good hunters, or because the rangers were inadequately trained. They used to come to my home sometimes and say that they could not catch the poachers. It made me question things.

Then one day whilst out hunting, everything changed. There was a female serow with calf. On sensing our presence, the mother serow gave an alarm call and ran away. We shot the calf. When we approached, the mother serow was staring at her calf dying helplessly. She ran away again upon seeing us. However, when we picked up the calf to carry it away, the mother serow followed us. So we shot the mother too, without mercy. She dropped down on the spot. As we approached her, I was horrified to see that she was looking at us and shedding tears. Despite the unbearable pain she looked in the direction of her calf and called once. Blood oozed out of her eyes and mouth. Then she became motionless forever.

I saw tears rolling from the cheeks of my father. On reaching home he said we were not to eat the meat. We dried it and took it to the nearest temple, where we prayed for the wellbeing of all sentient beings. The meat was given for gathering in annual rituals at that temple. My father wanted me to stand on my feet and beg for forgiveness for the animals that we killed. He started chanting prayer. I was nine years old at the time and he sent me to school with the message of not harming animals.

After studying until the 12th standard, I joined a Ranger Training Institute with the hope of fulfilling my father’s message. In July 2011, I completed the training and joined Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan. I am still here to this day. My job is to do patrolling, and I go on regular patrols with my senior friends.

One time I was assigned to border patrolling. The only map available was really old – created in 1972 – and we had to search for a border pillar that marked where India’s part of the reserve began. We were deep in the forest busy searching for the marker, and signs of encroachment, when one of the rangers encountered an elephant. He shouted and ran away. Everybody followed him whilst I was still struggling to figure out where the elephant was. By the time I saw it running in the other direction, I could no longer see or hear the other rangers. I was new and completely lost. I shouted and there was no response. I cried in a deep forest because I felt totally blind.

Jampel Lhendup (pictured in the centre) patrolling with his fellow rangers.

Jampel Lhendup (pictured in the centre) patrolling with his fellow rangers.

Over time, I began to realise something was not working with our patrolling system. We did regular patrolling and we could not arrest any poachers. Our patrolling did not have a clear objective. There was not even basic information on the protected area like what the threats were, where they were and how many there were. There was no system to store and analyse this information. Then in February 2013, I heard that a new system of patrolling was coming. Excitingly, I was selected for training and the trainer was a young and energetic man like me. His name was Mr. Rohit Singh.

I learnt that the new system was called the SMART Patrolling System. The “SMART” stood for Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool. Rohit explained all the functions of the software and the way of doing things with the SMART system. I was delighted; finally something had the capacity to give me all the information I wanted. SMART transformed the way I do my job. Now I can play with software and I have basic data. It gives me information on the protected area. It has made my patrolling objective clear and every individual ranger’s work is being tracked by this system. The data has become a source of intelligence for me. For example, the SMART patrol report for March 2015 showed threats in certain points of the park. We patrolled those areas and within two days, we arrested three poachers and three illegal fishermen.

I really, REALLY love SMART. And sometimes I’m very grateful… because if this system was there when my father and I were poaching, the rangers could have easily caught us. My life could have turned out very differently.

I can’t thank Mr. Rohit Singh enough for helping me to fulfill my father’s dream. I also have an important message for the wildlife whose lives were sacrificed for my growth:

Don’t have bad feelings against me because my forefathers killed without knowing the value of you, as an individual on our mother Earth. Forgive me. Now I am protecting your children. I will continue to give protection throughout my life and when the time comes, pass this honourable task onto future generations.

Jampel Lhendup

Jampel Lhendup teaching his son the value of wildlife and nature.

Jampel Lhendup teaching his son the value of wildlife and nature.

14 thoughts on “The Son of Poacher who Become a Ranger”

  1. This is a good emotional story and I can sense the flame of enthusiasm burning in you to protect our wild life. You are using all your past experiences and present technology to be efficient and dedicated in delivering your job. I hope you continue to be inspired and motivated for all others around you.
    Best Wishes
    Thinley (you can email me if you need resources to read ).

  2. This story brought tears to my eyes and the moral is that bad things can be changed for the better and everyone can change if they are willing enough. I hope the SMART system will be able to be used in other areas where wildlife is threatened.

  3. Veronique Kronacker

    More education is needed around the world to sensibilise people to animal welfare , to tell people that animals have sensibilties and that we need to respect them. Some people always knew that animals had feelings but a lot of people choose to ignore it and it breaks my heart .


  5. Wonderful story and very moving that your father was moved enough to set you on the right path after he shot the animals.

    Hope your son will follow your footsteps in protecting all the animals that roam free from poachers and hunters who kill for profit.

  6. If people are poor, we need to show them how money can be made out of keeping wildlife alive instead of killing it. There are enormous amounts of money to be made from ecotourism, people will travel thousands of miles and pay vast sums just to see a tiger,
    I’ve done it myself.

  7. Very moving experience. It shows people can change their attitudes towards wildlife and it is because of dedicated people like you that I cling to the belief that the world will one day treat wildlife with the respect it deserves. Keep up the good work and I hope technology continues to improve, so real progress can be made.

  8. The death of Cecil the Lion was one of the most mindless acts of needless cruelty, and at
    the hands of a so-called educated man. You wonder sometimes if we have taken a step
    backwards in our attitudes towards wild animals. I hope he regrets what he did. We must
    battle on to save the wild animals in our world, and people like Jampel Lhendup are a
    wonderful example of how life can be so rewarding when trying to protect the existing
    wild animals on our planet.

  9. Alexandra Burgess

    I have read the story of the poacher unfortunately if it is true,it is uncommon.It is not JUST greed which drives people to needlessly kill these rare animals it is poverty and lack of education. So we have to get at these people while they are young and explain that when all the animals have gone ,they will still be poor and hungry and there will be no way out. They have to be taught that they have a great treasure on their doorstep and people will pay a lot of money to come and see these wonderful creatures and their unique habitat.
    It breaks my heart to think that ‘ MAN’ supposedly the most intelligent animal on the planet is proving to be the most Stupid!

  10. I found this a really lovely story. It must have been a very emotional moment for Jampels father when he realised that the Animals he had been hunting weren`t just prey but had feelings ( the same as we do ). I wish Jampel all the very best for his future as a ranger.

  11. I read the story of the poacher becoming a ranger,I hope it is true. Poaching these lovely animals happens because the people are poor but also uneducated , they must be made to realise that if they continue to kill these endangered creatures they will have ( in a short time) nothing left and they will still be poor.if they protect them and are made aware of the hundreds of people who will pay a lot of money to see these beautiful unique creatures and that it will continue to create jobs and provide money to support their families. Education is every thing !!

  12. I know Jample since 4 years back but he never share such story to me. It is really emotional and touching for RANGERS like us. This story tell us that someone should think twice before he/she is going to commit crime to our owner less wild animals..

    Thank to RFA for sharing and bring all the RANGERS of the world together to voice for our owner less wildlife.

  13. Chechey (Jampel)

    Thank you all for reading my story and for your encouraging words. I also would like to thank RFA for posting my story.

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