What is World Female Ranger Day?

Less than 11% of the global wildlife ranger workforce is female. World Female Ranger Day is hoping to change that.
Written by Melanie van Zyl
18 June 2021

International charity How Many Elephants, will promote the first World Female Ranger Day on June 23. This global awareness day will celebrate and support female anti-poaching rangers spotlighting African women on the frontlines of conservation for its inaugural year.

Not to be confused with World Ranger Day celebrated on 31 July 2021, World Female Ranger Day celebrated on 23 June hopes to amplify the female presence protecting the wild.

Field guides decode the wild for guests who go on safari. They are the people who lead game drives or walking safaris, translating the bush for those keen to learn. However, if you decide to go into a career as a wildlife ranger, you’ll be expected to manage animal populations, maintain reserve roads and fences, plus control threats such as poaching as well as interact with the public and local communities.

While there is a growing force of female guides in Africa, the brave female rangers are the ones who work the field.

Many are out there right now as you read this, patrolling vast wilderness areas and seizing snares to protect and preserve Africa’s wild spaces.

PHUNDUNDU WILDLIFE AREA, ZIMBABWE, JUNE 2018: Akashinga (meaning the ‘Brave Ones’ in local dialect) is a community-driven conservation model, empowering disadvantaged women to restore and manage a network of wilderness areas as an alternative to trophy hunting. In this image, Primrose, one of the rangers, plays with her two-year-old daughter. She was in an abusive marriage and her position as a ranger has empowered her on many levels to leave that marriage | Source: Brett Stirton.

This is the first time that female wildlife rangers will be recognised collectively on a global interactive and fundraising-focused platform. The aim is to help share their stories, provide access to peer support, offer and receive advice, and share vital knowledge.

According to National Geographic, research shows working women in developing countries invest 90% of their income in their families, compared to the 35% generally contributed by men. It’s one of many reasons that these role models and educators are transforming attitudes and proving the capabilities and success of females in traditionally male roles.

Felicia Letang is one of the longest standing ‘Black Mambas’. Felecia has dedicated the last six years to the ongoing protection of wildlife within the borders of the reserve. Here she reflects on the morning’s ‘snare sweep’ at a watering hole. Fortunately, this morning no snares were found | Source: Ilan Godfrey/Getty Images for Lumix

These stats have surely been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic too. The new virus has crippled tourism and funding for conservation projects within Africa and globally. Since there is a lack of tourists visiting National Parks, there are fewer funds to pay rangers. Many have lost jobs or faced significant salary cuts. The knock-on effect of this is enormous. In many regions, one ranger alone may support up to 16 family members.

Additionally, there are fewer feet on the ground. The lack of vigilance in tourist hotspots has left wildlife even more vulnerable to poaching, which is why it’s more important than ever to ask ourselves – who is protecting what’s left of our precious wilderness?

The Akashinga are one such group. The research found that predominately male ranger forces are more likely to be hampered by corruption, nepotism, drunkenness, aggressiveness towards local communities and a sense of entitlement. The I.A.P.F, the International Anti-Poaching Foundation led by former Australian Special Forces soldier Damien Mander, was then created as a direct action conservation organisation to be used as a surgical instrument in targeting wildlife crime.

In 2017, they decided to innovate, using an all-female team to manage an entire nature reserve in Zimbabwe. The program builds an alternative approach to the militarized paradigm of ‘fortress conservation’ which defends colonial boundaries between nature and humans.

Akashinga
PHUNDUNDU WILDLIFE AREA, ZIMBABWE, JUNE 2018: Members of the all-female conservation ranger force known as Akashinga undergo tough training in the bush near their base | Source: Brett Stirton.

While still trained to deal with any situation they may face, the awe-inspiring women in the Akashinga team has a community-driven interpersonal focus, working with rather than against the local population for the long-term benefits of their own communities and nature.

Theirs is just one of many stories that #WorldFemaleRangerDay is hoping to call attention to.

 

How to join the launch of the first-ever World Female Ranger Day

The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit, Balule Nature Reserve, South Africa, 2015 | Credit: Julia Gunther.
  1. Become a ranger for the week. Think you have what it takes to be a ranger? Step into the boots of a wildlife ranger and see what it’s like to patrol, every day, across vast distances. A ranger covers around 20km per day. How many can you do? Choose your challenge at a time that suits you. See each distance challenge here.
  2. Send a message of support to the female rangers in Africa. Head on over the World Female Ranger Day website and share your support. Say why you admire them. Share an anecdote. Ask a question. Let’s get the dialog going.
  3. Celebrate the work of a female ranger and nominate them. Know someone working in the field? Share why they deserve to win the World Female Ranger Award. Closing date for nominations: 31st July 2021 |  The award recipient will be announced: 25th August 2021.

 

Who is the How Many Elephants charity?

Did you know? The forest elephant is now listed as Critically Endangered, and savanna elephants are listed as Endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

How Many Elephants is a charity registered in the United Kingdom that aims to emphasise the species loss of elephants through innovative, design-led education. The charity focuses on highlighting the rapid rate of species decline – on average 96 elephants are poached daily – and works to raise vital funds for front-line rangers.

Holly Budge is the founder of How Many Elephants and has witnessed first-hand the incredible work being done by female anti-poaching units in Africa, whilst spending time with @theblackmambas in South Africa and the @int.anti.poaching.foundation’s Akashinga Rangers and @national_park_rescue in Zimbabwe.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

 

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