“I believe in strong women. I believe in the woman who is able to stand up for herself. I believe that if you have problems, as a woman you deal with them, you don’t play victim, you don’t make yourself look pitiful, you don’t point fingers. You stand and you deal. You face the world with a head held high and you carry the universe in your heart.”
Team Lioness, one of Kenya’s first all-female ranger unit is a true manifestation of this quote by C. JoyBell C.
The team of 8 audacious women is among 23 Olulugului Community Wildlife Rangers who graduated from the Amboseli Conservation Academy Basic Field Ranger Course on May 6th, 2019.
They join the Olgulului Community Wildlife Rangers (OCWR) who protect wildlife across six bases and one mobile unit in OOGR through tenBoma.
On this day, these Rangers were officially commissioned with the mandate to serve as guardians and protectors of wildlife and their communities on their traditional lands, in one of East Africa’s richest areas of biodiversity.
The Ranger graduates were recognized in a ceremony overseen by the Kenya Wildlife Service Senior Warden for Amboseli National Park which included a formal military parade, award of training certificates and recognition of outstanding individual performance.
Team Lioness and the OCWR Rangers form the first line of defence for protecting and securing wildlife in these vast Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR) in Kajiado County.
As we made our way around the conservancy, I couldn’t help but notice a very jovial Lioness by the name Purity Amlesest, she oozed of confidence and pride.
As we had a sit-down, Purity let us into her life as she explained how much it meant for her to join the Lioness rangers.
From a young age, she always had some interest in wildlife as she hails from one of the Maasai clans in the region.
Her mum sold ornaments and tourist beads to support her and her siblings.
After Purity cleared school, she approached her mother and told her that she wanted to be a ranger but her mother could hear none of it claiming that she was a lady and could not keep up with the Lion rangers in the conservancy due to harsh conditions, dangerous animals that come as part of the job and many other factors.
Her daughter, however, proved her wrong when she went ahead to excel in her training coming out as one of the top rangers.
Purity with her salary now supports her mother, which makes her beam with pride.
It hasn’t always been easy for the women in the Lioness Team. When they first enrolled, the Lion team of rangers did not believe that they were added value to the team until they saw the girls pull their weight in the patrols as well as other duties.
They now command respect in their various duties as Olulugului Community Wildlife Rangers and as Lionesses.
Patrick Papatiti, Director of Operations in Olulugului in support of the Lionesses said,” the perception that girls cannot do some things has been thwarted by this team.”
“When recruiting the Lionesses, we bring in those with at least high school education because they are required to collect data in the field, must be from a local community as well as be a member of the eight clans,” said Ole Papatiti.
Azzedine Downes, President and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), says that working with communities must start from listening; in this case, “I couldn’t come into this conservancy and tell the Maasai new things about their wildlife. There’s always the issue of economic value, how does my family benefit? We hence focus on tourism, security and investment in the area, to benefit the communities.”
“I want to thank you for all the work that you do, all the support given to us, I personally feel that I’m working for you and I want to reflect your value and I want to reflect what you hope for animals and the future of the economy,” Downes concluded.
Azzedine Downes , President and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) hands over a base to the rangers.