Park Ranger Pioneers
Defying tradition and breaking barriers aptly describe the first all-female ranger unit — affectionately known as Team Lioness, patrolling Kenya’s vast Amboseli National Park.
Purity Amselet, 24, a member of Team Lioness, shares her views, “When they see us doing this job, they don’t believe we can make it. They thought that this is only meant for men, so they have been discouraging us that it is not ours, we don’t have to do this as women. “It would be much better if we have more women rangers working around the world because it will show women empowerment amongst the women who have not been recognised from their local communities and it will also show that there is gender equality. “
Formed in 2017 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare under the TenBoma Wildlife security team, Team Lioness joined a group of 68 men of the Olgulului Community Wildlife Rangers based on the border between Kenya and Tanzania.
Protection, Pandemic and Poaching
The magnificent wildlife dwelling in the Maasai community land surrounding the park is under the protection of these impressive young women. This has not been an easy feat in light of the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen a rise in bushmeat hunting cases due to the locals turning to poaching to survive as their livelihood sourced from tourism having been negatively affected by the virus travel restrictions.
Nolepeta, 81, mother of eight within the Maasai community expresses her concerns, “This pandemic has been a big challenge to us as we used to sell our beads to the tourists. Earn money to take our children to school and provide food for them.”
The same coronavirus travel restrictions have kept the rangers four months from seeing their families and observing social distancing with the locals has made the task of gathering information to do their job more difficult.
Exemplary Female Leaders
Nevertheless, Olgulului Community Wildlife Commander Patrick Papatiti, recognises the superior vigilance and conflict resolution abilities of Team Lioness – and all this in spite of their challenges as women in a patriarchal society, “The challenge was the perception. The challenge was the belief that then this is a challenge putting women into leadership. This is putting women into a position of working with men. These are young women let free from the society, let free from the family unit to go and work with a group of 68 other men.”
Their excellent work is a testament to the success of the all-female model that could be replicated to empower many other women.