By Jane Okoth
In 2011, Wildlife Works opened its doors to its first female rangers who are now part of the 100+ ranger team currently working at our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project to protect wildlife and the environment from poachers and other illegal activities.
Since joining Wildlife Works, these conservation rangers have gained valuable insight and experience on how to deal with poachers and other threats. This is their story.
“Before I joined Wildlife Works, I was not sure whether I would do what is traditionally seen as a man’s job,” says Constance Mwandaa. Growing up as a child, she enjoyed going on wildlife tours in school. This encouraged the 27-year-old, who was eager to learn more about animals, and when she completed her secondary education she jumped at an opportunity to join the Wildlife Works team of rangers. “In 2011, after completion of my high school education, I came across an employment opportunity to be a female ranger,” she recalls. “Thankfully, I found myself equal to the 5km run and recruitment process.” she says.
Her most enjoyable day at work? “My most satisfying day at work is when I finally apprehend a notorious poacher after months of tracking him or her,” she says. Her experience as a female ranger has enabled her to gain valuable skills such as tracking footprints and embracing dialogue first when dealing with poachers. Constance’s experience as a ranger has also enabled her to increase her capabilities on how to work in the forest and to deal with armed poachers. “I used to be scared of poachers, but now, I have overcome my fears and I am more determined to protect the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project, she says. “Back then, there was a lot of charcoal burning and illegal grazing, and there was a very high incidence of poaching. Today I am happy to see that the wildlife population has increased and the environment has changed for the better thanks to conservation,” she adds.
When conducting her daily duties as a ranger, Constance is motivated by teamwork as they constantly look out for one another when going on patrols. The proud mother of a 4-year-old plans to go to university and study environmental science. During her free time, she loves to empower others through attending empowering events for women as well as participating in decision making in her community.
Jane Mwaingati joined Wildlife Works in 2010 after she saw a recruitment advert in her native area of Sagalla, one of Wildlife Works’ project areas. Her day as a ranger begins as early as 5am when she prepares breakfast before she embarks on patrol depending on instructions from her team leader.
“While we are in the bush, we take note of any sightings and report it to the biodiversity and social monitoring team,” she says.
Just like Constance, the 37-year-old is also happy and satisfied at work when she gets to apprehend a notorious poacher. “When I joined Wildlife Works, there was a lot of poaching and environmental degradation, but now, the situation has changed because of our conservation work,” she says. This she attributes to embracing dialogue whenever they come across poachers or charcoal burners.
“At Wildlife Works, rather than violently arresting and apprehending the culprits we focus on providing guidance to them, which makes us close to the community,” she says. Jane is also grateful for the no guns policy that makes it easier to work with the community when guarding the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project.
Since she joined Wildlife Works, Jane has bought several pieces of land and built a permanent house for her family. Apart from using her salary to educate her three children, she also supports her parents back in her home village.
Meet Grace Mwalumba, who holds a strong opinion that there is no bias when dealing with poachers or charcoal burners. “I would not mind arresting my own relative if I found him or her harming animals or destroying the environment,” she says.
She joined Wildlife Works at a time when poaching and illegal logging was on the rise. “Right now, I can proudly say that logging and poaching has decreased significantly,” she says. Grace is a single 33-year-old mother of two children aged 14 and 12 years.
Thanks to her experience, coming face to face with notorious charcoal burners is a normal thing to her. “At first it was challenging because the poachers can be aggressive at times,” she says, “but working at Wildlife Works has enabled me to be tougher.”
“Another aspect that makes our work easier is initiating conversation, as we first establish the reason why an individual would decide to destroy the environment for a living. We focus on educating first-time offenders on the importance of protecting the environment and that animals have a right to live,” she explains.
With her salary at Wildlife Works, she has bought a piece of land and supports her parents in the village as well as educating her two children. She hopes that she can keep saving money to start her own business.
Florence Mwakibi Ndoro
This is Florence Mwakibi Ndoro. She is accustomed to taking on challenging roles thanks to her experience at Wildlife Works. Florence is a 36-year-old single mother of three. Her everyday experience as a Wildlife Works ranger has given her a compassionate approach towards wildlife and the environment. As early as 7am, Florence and her team begin their patrol in the Kasigau Corridor in search of snares and other illegal activities. Their job will then involve following any suspicious footprints and apprehending poachers if required.
“One important aspect of our work is our closeness to the community,” she says. “This is important as it helps us get crucial information on incidents in our project area,” she adds. Her greatest joy is seeing the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project flourish thanks to combined efforts of rangers. “When I first joined Wildlife Works, I didn’t have a house but thanks to being a ranger, I have a place I call home for me and my children,” she says. Florence also hopes that when the time is ready, she will start her own business with money that she is saving.
Judith Wakio Mwanzia
Judith is a 32-year-old native of Marungu, one of the six locations in the Wildlife Works project area. The third born in a family of five, Judith had a passion for becoming an animal protector from an early age. She worked as a community scout with Marungu Hill Conservancy Association from 2004 and joined Wildlife Works’ team of rangers recently. “In 2017, I was informed of a ranger recruitment at Wildlife Works and immediately applied for the position,” she says.
Apart from her daily duties as a ranger, she also loves to have discussions with her community about conservation. “I feel like it is my responsibility to let people know about the importance of forests,” she says.
Previously, the single mother of two had difficulties providing for her children’s education. But thanks to her employment at Wildlife Works, she now uses her salary to educate her children as well as support her parents.
At Wildlife Works, we congratulate our female rangers and are proud to have them on board. Watch out for the next profile of female rangers part 2 coming soon!