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All-Female Ranger Unit Protecting Kenya’s Wildlife

By Antipoaching, Conservation
Voa News | March 07, 2020

Read the original story here

KAJIADO, KENYA – Kenya’s Amboseli National Park is home to herds of elephants that have been the target of poachers trafficking in the illicit trade in ivory. Now a program that has brought women on board in the fight against poaching is gaining traction.

At the start of another day at the Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch, 23-year-old park ranger Purity Amleset, the leader of this all female ranger unit, sets out the day’s plan with her team, ensuring that each member has her orders correct.

Today’s task: locating an elephant and her newborn calf.

Original photo as published by VOA News: Members of Team Lioness are seen in traditional garb on a day off from work. (Photo: Patrick Papatiti, Commander of the Olgulului Community Wildlife Rangers)

Team Lioness

Dubbed “Team Lioness,” the ranger unit is made up of eight women whose core duties involve protecting wildlife within the 1,230 square kilometer stretch of parkland that surrounds Amboseli National Park.

They are chosen for their academic achievements, physical stamina, integrity and discipline.

Amleset says joining an all-female ranger unit has been beneficial to the traditionally patriarchal Maasai community.

She says her community held the view that women and girls were the weaker sex and that girls could only do menial jobs and housework, which included only raising a family. However over the course of time, the female rangers have been showing and telling them the importance of being a ranger just like the menfolk.

Gateway for poachers

The Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch’s proximity to the Amboseli park makes it a likely gateway for poachers who may seek entry into the national park to hunt illegally.

Patrick Papatiti, the commander of the Olgululului Community Wildlife Rangers has about 76 rangers under his charge. He says integrating women has not been easy.

“We have the same mentality even within the male ranger unit, the same mentality that ladies cannot do it. But surprisingly we have the best young women who can run, who can move faster than these guys, who can go long(er) distances than these guys,” he sad. “So from that, working together helped us to clear the norm that these are the same ladies the same girls that you see in the village.”

Despite the challenges, in the end James Isiche — the regional director for East Africa from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) — says starting an all-female ranger unit was a risk worth taking.

“Communities in Kenya are male-dominated, but this particular one is extremely male-dominated,” he said. “So getting young ladies to engage in what is seen as a man’s job is a huge success and what we (are) seeing is that it’s encouraging other girls to step up and say that ‘when I finish school I also want to join the female lionesses.’”

CELEBRATING AFRICAN WOMEN—PETRONEL NIEUWOUDT

By Conservation

#IWD2020 #EACHFOREQUAL

“The more I work in conservation, the more I realize the strength and kindness of women and the enormous part they play in conserving mother earth,” Petronel Nieuwoudt states with confidence and conviction.

Passion, determination, caring, and conviction are qualities ingrained in this energetic conservationist, the founder and driving force behind Care for The Wild—Rhino Sanctuary (CFWRS). The sanctuary, near Barberton in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Lowveld, is totally devoted to the care and rehabilitation of African wild animals—and is also only one of a few specializing in the hand-rearing and care of orphaned and injured baby rhinos.

Aside from her immediate challenge of rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing orphaned rhinos, her vision is to secure a viable free-ranging African White and Black Rhinoceros population at the sanctuary as the nucleus population for future generations of rhino.

“I am often asked how I became involved in this work,” she says, “but you don’t get involved, you’re born with it. I reckon God appointed me to look after the animals, so you had better not get in my way.” There is a steely edge behind her ready smile.

Petronel started her career in the Endangered Species Protection Unit (a specialized unit of the Police), where she held the rank of captain. In 1999 she left the police service and started The Game Capture School. With more than 20 years of experience in the care and conservation of wild animals, she more recently consolidated her efforts in developing the sanctuary of today.

Time is of the essence to save orphaned rhinos. A dedicated helicopter is available to track, find, and secure injured and/or orphaned rhinos. The air rescue team is supported by a highly qualified veterinary team and ground support vehicles that transport the rhino to the CFWRS holding facilities. Most of the orphaned rhinos come from the Kruger National Park, where their mothers were poached.

The early and fragile stages of their rehabilitation and care are hugely important. “When a baby rhino comes in, it has been badly traumatized,” Petronel explains. “You must remember that it has just seen its mom being killed. There’ve been guns, noise, people, blood … .” So, there is an understandable fear of humans, and this has to be overcome. Trust has to be built before any orphan can be reintegrated with other rhinos.

Working with baby rhinos has its challenges, but so does the care and handling of fully-grown rhinos. And to this end, Care for Wild Rhino has developed a state-of-the-art rehab facility that gives injured and sick adult rhinos the best chance at survival and recovery.

Petronel also has a passion for helping and uplifting the surrounding communities in the area. Her heart is not only with animals but the people of Africa as well. Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary has created more than 300 jobs for previously disadvantaged people.

“Our work has to be inclusive of the surrounding communities; otherwise we will not be able to save the rhino from extinction,” Petronel remarks while walking through the newly developed vegetable gardens. She knows that if she can teach the mothers to grow veggies, she can give them hope and make sure their children will not go hungry.

Petronel also believes that the role of women in conservation is critical for future generations. “We, as women, look after and teach our children. They see the world through our eyes until they are big enough to see it through their own. Women are the hope for the future because they influence how children see their own destiny.”

CELEBRATING AFRICAN WOMEN—WANGARI MAATHAI

By Conservation


#IWD2020 #EACHFOREQUAL

“Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.”

If ever there was a “Mother of African Conservation” in modern times, it would have to be the late Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and the author of four books. Born in rural Kenya in 1940, this redoubtable woman had a distinguished academic career culminating in a Ph.D. from the University of Nairobi, where she also taught veterinary anatomy.

The first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, Professor Maathai became chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and an associate professor in 1976 and 1977, respectively. In both cases, she was the first woman to attain those positions in the region. She was also honored with honorary doctorates from several universities around the world, including Yale.

Wangari Maathai was internationally recognized for her persistent struggle for democracy, human rights, and environmental conservation. She addressed the UN on several occasions and spoke on behalf of women at special sessions of the General Assembly. She was also listed on UNEP’s Global 500 Hall of Fame and named one of the 100 heroines of the world. In June 1997, she was elected by Earth Times as one of 100 persons in the world who have made a difference in the environmental arena. Professor Maathai was also received honorary doctoral degrees from several institutions around the world: William’s College, MA, USA (1990), Hobart & William Smith Colleges (1994), University of Norway (1997) and Yale University (2004).

In 1976, during her service with the National Council of Women, she introduced the idea of planting trees with the people and developed it into a broad-based, grassroots organization. The Green Belt Movement’s primary focus remains the planting of trees with women groups to conserve the environment and improve their quality of life. During her life, Wangari Maathai assisted women in planting more than 20 million trees on their farms and on schools and church compounds.

Wangari Maathai’s dramatic story is eloquently told in the film Taking Root. It celebrates her simple act of planting trees that grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, protect human rights, and defend democracy.

This charismatic woman remains an iconic inspiration for all, but especially African women. Her encouragement continues to reach out. “African women, in general, need to know that it’s okay for them to be the way they are—to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.”