“This is a man’s job. Women are too weak to be wildlife rangers. They are not brave enough to fight poachers. They cannot deal with dangerous animals like elephants, lions, or buffalo.” Those are just some of the insults female rangers still face today. But women have been fighting for equal rights for centuries. And have learned to use what some might see as a weakness as their strength.
These female rangers say that women are born to care for and protect. The wild animals are like their children, and they guard them with their lives. They work together as a team which makes them almost invincible because they know they can rely on each other.
And on the women of the communities around the wildlife areas, where they can quickly get intel on where to find the poachers. And finally, dealing with wild animals and poachers alike, they work foresighted to avoid dangerous situations in the beginning or try to deescalate. So many of them don´t even carry guns. Because they don´t need to, they do their work with their approach. And will not be intimidated by the men around.
Since there are no clearer voices to praise the women protecting our wildlife than the female rangers, we have put together this video playlist to introduce you to some of these inspiring women. Their voices are strong, and they need to be heard.
Black Mambas in South Africa
They are the only group of female rangers in South Africa protecting Rhinos in the private Nature Reserve Balule on the outskirts of Kruger Nationalpark. Now there are almost 30 rangers who call themselves “the eyes and ears” of the weak-sighted and easily targeted rhinos. They cover nearly 12 km on foot along the fence lines to guarantee the safety of the 80 rhinos. Just with their presence, they protect and don´t even carry guns. If needed, they can call the antipoaching unit for assistance. These men look down on the Black Mambas without seeing the love, passion, and bare hands and feet with whom these women protect one of the last rhinos in South Africa.
Team Lioness in Kenya
As one of the first all-women-ranger units in Kenya, Team Lioness was founded in 2019 by eight brave Maasai women, who now are the first line of defense against poaching around Amboseli Nationalpark on the border with Tanzania. They patrol around to collect data on the activity of wildlife and look for injured animals. The Maasai community is strong; mainly, the local women help gather information about what is happening. Team Lioness also puts much effort into educating the villagers on dealing with dangerous animals without killing them. During the first lockdown in Kenya due to the Corona pandemic, these women decided to stay to protect the wildlife for the price of not seeing their families for months. But then, they call the wild animals their family, too.
Akashinga Anti-Poaching Unit, Zimbabwe
Akashinga means “the brave one”. And these women are. In 2017 Damien Mander, an Australian conservationist with military sniper training, built this female ranger group, starting with 16 women to protect wildlife in the Lower Zambezi area. Nowadays, almost 500 recruits come to see if they’re cut out to be a ranger and carry a gun. Eighty will make it. These women have suffered losses or experienced violence and abuse. They see the Akashinga as an opportunity to support their families and have a purpose. They don´t mind the risk involved. Most poachers are men, and they tend to underestimate these rangers. But boy, are they wrong. Eight thousand elephants were killed in the 16 years since Akashinga was funded. They use their instinct to protect. And make a huge difference.
Do you also want to learn how to protect our wildlife?
Why not take part in one of our courses? We promise you will become a proper bush lover.
Learn more about EcoTraining’s courses here: https://www.ecotraining.co.za/programs-courses/
Get inspired by the stories of these fantastic women protecting our wildlife.
Thank you to all the brilliant ladies that make EcoTraining what it is. Well done for breaking the mold, stepping out of your comfort zones, and making the wildlife and eco-tourism industry all that much better for being in it.
About the Author:
Stefanie Ruth Heyduck is a freelance writer and consultant. Half of the year she lives in Tanzania and spends every free minute in the bush. She is passionate about wildlife, conservation and photography and shares her sightings on Instagram (www.instagram.com/giraffe13).