It's that time of year again where lights shine bright, carols are sung and millions of gifts are brought all across the globe. Christmas is here and whilst most people are rushing around buying turkeys and last-minute presents, or indulging in a little too much mold wine and mince pies some men and women are putting their lives on the line to protect some of the most vulnerable animals left on the planet.

Christmas should be a period when you forget the stresses of life and enjoy quality time with family and friends. We work hard all year round and a few days of festivities is, for most of us, a welcome break from it. But this is not a break that we can all afford as while the lights flash around the tree and the fire crackles whilst we sit and open our presents, the only trees those men and women see are the silhouetted ones growing into the night sky as they patrol the reserves they are in charge of protecting well into darkness.

Some will not even see their families, let alone give them presents over Christmas, as they enter a period of up to 20 days working straight to protect the Rhino that call these reserves home. Christmas for them is business as usual and they leave to patrol not knowing if they will come home alive.

In the last decade alone South Africa has lost over 9,000 rhinos due to poaching, purely to meet the demand in horn that some countries in the far East refuse to put right. This demand has meant that Rhino horn is now one of the most expensive commodities in the world, far surpassing both cocaine and gold. This, coupled with the fact that there is a huge proportion of the South African population living in the type of poverty we can't even begin to imagine, spells disaster for the rhino which has lived peacefully in one form or another on this planet for millions of years.

The criminal gangs that run these poaching syndicates know all too well that millions of African's are living well below the poverty line and that there are plenty of people out there that would do anything to put food on their family's plate. Anything, in this case, means illegally shooting a rhino then barbarically removing its horn. This doesn't stop over the Christmas period and trends suggest that incidents of poaching in the lead up to Christmas increase. In one week in the lead up to Christmas in 2016 18 suspected rhino poachers were arrested in Kruger National Park alone! Although there is no hard research to back this it is suggested that users in Vietnam and China place orders to have rhino horn as the most coveted of Christmas gifts. This compounded by the fact that poachers themselves look to earn money for their holiday spending leads to an often increase in poaching incidents.

Therefore it is vital to have dedicated, hard-working rangers out on the ground, fighting to ensure the survival of this beast. Anyone that has stepped foot in the bush will understand the dangers that that habitat possesses. There is an array of wild animals out there that can easily cause harm if not death if you are not careful. Now imagine going out there at night when your only vision comes from the shining of the moon. There is no talking, just hand signals to communicate so that your location is not given away and the night is filled with the sounds of the bush. Having witnessed the mock charge of an angry Rhino whilst on patrol I can assure you it's not for the faint-hearted.

Not only do the animals that the rangers protect pose a serious risk, but there is also the added risk of armed poachers wandering in the park looking for their next target. Of course, the rhino is their target but this does not mean they won't attack rangers given the chance. Since 2009, 871 Rangers have lost their lives in the line of duty. 871 innocent lives gone protecting our natural world.

Every single night as they walk out of their camp gates into the open wilderness they are putting their lives on the line and we must never forget their courage and dedication to conservation. Even the smallest donation can help make a difference and help Veterans for Wildlife to continue to support these men and women with equipment and life-saving training. If you can't donate then please share this campaign and help us spread the word as these rangers deserve our support more than ever. The future of these animals depends on them and us. Have a great Christmas.

And thanks to a very generous donor, every donation will be matched pound for pound up to a total of £1000! Please consider supporting Veterans for Wildlife, and our brave rangers this Christmas!

Veterans for Wildlife Christmas Campaign