This is a really good question and I am so glad that GP has asked it.
The reason for me saying this is simple:
There are many organisations that are going around with similar or fairly similar uniforms to SANParks, but they are certainly not SANParks.
In fact, there was a group floating around that collected money "for conservation" a while back with epaulettes similar to SANParks.
I can remember seeing one of them near Hartebeespoort dam two years ago who took one look at me (I was in uniform) and scattered.
SANParks will never raise money in this way!
The moral of the story is be very careful who you give money too, the only legitimate fund raising attempt of this type sanctioned by SANParks are the anti poaching "tins" found in our shops and at certain locations across the country.
This is an Honorary Rangers project.
But this plethora of uniforms out there is one of the reasons why we are set to change our uniforms over the next two years but, for the meantime, let me discuss the official uniforms of the KNP (read SANParks):
1) Green Army-style uniform with epaulettes
This heavy looking dark green uniform has definite Kudu Kop (see above left hand corner of website) worn as an epaulette.
This is worn by conservation staff, rangers, scientists working in the field (including game capture) and security officials (excluding our contracted security company).
Staff in other departments - like myself in Public Relations - may not wear this uniform.
2) Two tone khaki
With its SANParks logo (Kudu Kop and words "South African National Parks) this is the "normal" day-to-day uniform of most (if not all) staff members.
Women are allowed to wear it - it is incredibly cool and comfortable - and can be worn with short- or long-pants.
It can also be worn with slightly darker green long pants.
3) Golf Shirts
There are also two golf shirts that are technically uniform.
They are a creamy colour and a green colour and both have the SANParks logo (kudu kop) on the pocket.
4) Green women's uniform
This is a variation light, dark and patterned green uniform worn by women.
It includes skirts, shorts, slacks and a variation of shirts.
The Kudu Kop is embroidered on the shirt, usually the left chest.
5) Working uniform
This is a tough khaki uniform for both men and women used by labourers and domestic workers.
In KNP, we have been issued security passes (used to be yellow cards but are now blue with an animal picture, mine is a lion -
NOT A SHARK!) and we can use this to identify ourselves when not in uniform too.
Many of us have been given permission to use magnets for our vehicles with the SANParks logo - normally for law enforcement purposes - but this is our choice whether to use them or not.
All security passes have our photographs, name, employee number and division where we work.
Not all parks have this system and we in the KNP are still busy issuing all staff with this card but this is a pretty good guide.
Many other conservation authorities, zoos, private game parks, provincial game parks and tour guide organisations have taken to wearing some sort of epaulette in recent years.
There certainly is no specific qualification to wearing them, other than the type of industry that they work for.
Regarding ranger training, let us first make the distinction between the different levels (which many lump under one heading "ranger" but they are totally different in role and responsibility.
Ranger (section or district)
Most undergo at least a National Diploma in Nature Conservation before applying for a job as a ranger but many have other degrees or qualifications.
One particular ranger that I know and respect highly has just submitted his Master's Thesis!
They are - in essence - wildlife protectors and are allocated an area of the park as their responsibility.
Apart from law enforcement and possibly answering a few questions (in my experience they are a really nice bunch of guys and girls) they don't really see that many tourists.
In their sections, what they say is law!
These guys work directly under section/district rangers and are the guys who actually patrol the area, protecting the wilderness against everything from soil erosion to poachers.
They have normally done in service training together with courses and learn their skills as time passes and with their more experienced colleagues.
The field ranger corps are a paramilitary arm and have all the characteristics of a military unit, including incredible espirit de corps.
The late L/Cpl Ndlovu was a field ranger.
Although the qualifications can vary considerably, these guys and girls have normally got a FGASA (Field Guide Association of South Africa) or similar qualification, which has various levels, from vehicle guiding to being weapons qualified which enables them to take guided walks.
Although most refer to them as "rangers", they are actually guides and are also trained to "interpret" the "language" of the bushveld to their guests.
This is an interesting person as he/she is part guide and part section ranger.
Most have all the training of a full section ranger (including Nature Conservation Diplomas) but are specifically deployed to interact with guests, particularly on Wilderness Trails.
They have all got their full FGASA qualifications.
Many trails rangers in the KNP have gone on to become full section rangers and some, for example Wouter Jordaan (who answered that question about bicycle patrols a few weeks back) has climbed even higher and is now a Quality Assurance officer: Wildlife Management (a senior post in our Conservation Services Department).
That, in essence, is the difference between them.
Zoos aren't really linked to any National Park by organisation.
Most fall under some or another Zoological Society or organisation.
That said however, there is no reason why we can't work together with them on some or another project. For example, the "Take animals back to Africa" project with the Frankfurt Zoological Society.
Basically speaking, the Frankfurt Zoo has a breeding pair of black rhino and, every time one gets too old for its enclosure, it is trans located to South Africa.
It usually spends time in our bomas here in Skukuza before being released in Marakele National Park.
Phew, probably my longest post but I trust I have explained this fully.