Virtual Currency Sables with Mark Hiley

National Park Rescue implements innovative ranger reward scheme

The future survival of wildlife living in protected areas is intrinsically linked to the ability to motivate rangers to carry out their difficult and dangerous work effectively. National Park Rescue are pioneering a new type of reward scheme, using a virtual currency we call Sables.

Devised by Operation Director, Mark Hiley, the Sables Award Scheme aims to reward park rangers for high performance and to encourage them to invest in education and training. This scheme links the value of ranger rewards with tangible conservation successes in the park, so that rewards increase over time as the conservation situation in the park improves.

Typical cash-based incentive schemes have a number of negative impacts. Chief among these are:

1) they create a negative and cash-based relationship between the operation and the rangers, who are already being paid to carry out their duties.

2) they fail to embrace the primary motivator of most African rangers: pride.

3) if, for example, the reward for recovery of a snare is less than the value of the snare itself it is not a sufficient motivator; if it is more than the value of the snare it encourages corruption.

4) if rangers are successful at eliminating poaching their reward goes down over time due to diminishing returns.

5) paying cash to rangers provides no return on investment.

National Park Rescue’s pioneering incentive scheme transcends the above issues, using a virtual currency called Sables which can be exchanged for a range of benefits, many of which serve to simultaneously benefit the park. National Park Rescue set the value of Sables in real terms, and can adjust the value (ie how many Sables is equal to $1) to reflect the conservation performance of the park: as the conservation performance of the park improves and poaching decreases, National Park Rescue will increase the value of the Sables.

Sables certificates are handed out at our monthly performance awards, and recognise high achievement with a particular focus on arrests.

Sables can then be exchanged for kit, equipment, building materials and other items from our Sables Catalogue. National Park Rescue automatically double the value of the reward if exchanged for training or education, or for medical bills for either the ranger or a family member.

“It strongly incentivises the rangers to invest in their education or that of their family, and provides a means to pay previously-unaffordable medical bills,” said Mark Hiley. “It’s have a significant impact on the ranger performance throughout the park, yet it avoids the unsustainable and problematic tradition of cash-based rewards.”

This same virtual currency will be trialled with the park’s planned tourism initiative, providing a mechanism for tourists to reward rangers in a way which supports their careers and the park.

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