The Rise of Female Wildlife Rangers Globally
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By Holly Budge
British Adventurer Holly Budge launches World Female Ranger Week (June 23 - 30th, 2022) to amplify the impact of female wildlife rangers on a global stage.
This ground-breaking global awareness week, spearheaded by international NGO, How Many Elephants, celebrates and supports female wildlife rangers - They're bold, changing the game and paving the way for women to stand alongside men at the forefront of conservation, but they need allies.
Building on their success of World Female Ranger Day last year, which reached over 366 million viewers worldwide, How Many Elephants says, "one day wasn't enough for us to cover the many inspirational stories of female rangers." The pioneering World Female Ranger Week will include online and live events, plus a fundraising platform - www.worldfemalerangerweek.org - to raise vital funds for the ranger teams and share the rangers' stories.
As champions of wildlife conservation, role models, educators and as beacons of hope, female rangers are not only transforming attitudes towards the role of women around the world; they are showing the capabilities and success of females in traditionally male roles. However, less than 11% of the global wildlife ranger workforce is female. With women being natural communicators and protectors and investing their earned income in their families, bringing gender equality into the workforce enhances community conservation efforts and relationships.
The founder of How Many Elephants and World Female Ranger Week, Holly Budge, says, “having patrolled with multiple ranger teams in Africa, I've seen first-hand how these bold women are impacting lives, Protecting wildlife, uplifting communities and empowering other women. World Female Ranger Week highlights the significant gender imbalance in environmental conservation. My team and I will continue collating gender-specific data about female rangers globally, enabling us to identify their needs, find tangible solutions and help build effective policies to contribute towards positive outcomes; for female rangers and conservation as a whole.”
Over the last two years, the pandemic has crippled tourism and funding for conservation projects globally. The lack of tourists visiting National Parks has led to many rangers losing their jobs or having significant salary cuts. The knock-on effect of this is huge. For example, one ranger in Africa may support up to 16 family members. Additionally, reduced vigilance in tourist hotspots has left wildlife even more vulnerable to poaching.
So, the often-challenging work of rangers is paramount right now. Day and night, female rangers patrol wilderness areas, monitoring wildlife, seizing snares, working with communities and, in some cases, arresting poachers, all to save iconic species from extinction. They are away from their families for long periods, sometimes facing workplace security issues and battling social stigma. Many of these inspirational women have overcome adversity, poverty and marginalisation. Becoming a ranger has empowered them, turned them into breadwinners and property owners, and has allowed them access to higher education and much-needed healthcare.
Holly and her team have identified over 4500 female rangers in 18 African countries so far and many more around the world, including in China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Tasmania, Venezuela, and Scotland.
Meet some women who give their all to protect wildlife from extinction.
- Indonesia: Sumini
Mother of five, Sumini gets up at dawn to do her household chores before leading a team of women into the jungles of Sumatra island on a mission to battle rampant deforestation and wildlife poaching. They navigate the steep, mountainous terrain searching for signs of poaching and logging, remove animal traps, document endemic wildlife and plant species and post signs warning against illegal activity, which they report to government authorities.
- China: Qiu Shi
A ranger for the Dongning Forestry Bureau, Heilongjiang Province, Qiu Shi's team is unique in that they are China's only all-women patrol team. With snow underfoot, they sometimes patrol in temperatures below -20℃ to record data, remove snares and set up camera traps. She says, "many people born in the mountains yearn for urban life, but we love nature, and we have inherited the spirit of our fathers. Now we are the protectors of wildlife for the younger generations."
- UK: Casey-Jo Zammit
Casey-Jo is a Countryside Ranger on the Isle of Gigha in Scotland. She has helped facilitate a new ranger service on the island, working to monitor and survey the wildlife and develop low carbon initiatives (e.g. e-bike schemes, community zero-carbon group) across the island. Casey-Jo said: "I am absolutely delighted to have been offered my dream role, working to protect and enhance the natural environment as well as improve access to nature for everyone."
- South Africa: Tsakane
Tsakane is a ranger in the all-female Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit in South Africa and a role model in her community. In the course of duty, the rangers face danger from poachers and wild animals. But, she says, "at first, people were sceptical that we, women, could do this traditionally male job and be good at it. Now we have their full support."
To shine a light on the impact The Black Mambas in South Africa are making; since 2013, more than 1500 deadly snares have been dismantled and seized, and record numbers of poachers' camps destroyed. As a result, the number of snaring and poaching incidents in Balule Nature Reserve, where the Black Mambas operate, has fallen by 76%.
How Many Elephants supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, no.5 - Gender Equality, no.15 - Life on Land and no.17 - Partnerships. In keeping with these goals, How Many Elephants hopes World Female Ranger Week is the start of a long-standing campaign to support female-led conservation efforts across the globe and increase gender diversity in ranger teams.
How Many Elephants is seeking long-term strategic partnerships with companies, associations, and global citizens to expand the campaign's reach to strengthen the support of female rangers.
There are many ways you can get involved with World Female Ranger Week, from fundraising to donating. More details are available at www.worldfemalerangerweek.org and www.howmanyelephants.org. For updates, you can follow @worldfemalerangerweek on Instagram and Facebook, @femalerangerwk on Twitter, or hashtag #worldfemalerangerweek.
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