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Women Guarding the Wild: World Female Ranger Week

3 min read

Updated 23 June 2024

Picture of Sue Watt

By Sue Watt

Travel Writer

*A version of this article originally appeared in the June 2024 Bush Telegraph newsletter. You can read our recent newsletters and sign-up to receive these in your inbox on our Bush Telegraph newsletter page.

From June 23-30, World Female Ranger Week (WFRW) will celebrate the courage and contribution of women dedicated to protecting our planet’s wildlife and wild places.

The campaign is the dreamchild of conservationist and adventurer Holly Budge and is spearheaded by her international NGO, How Many Elephants. She started WFRW in 2022 having been inspired by two all-female ranger teams she spent time with on the ground: Akashinga, meaning The Brave Ones, in Zimbabwe and the Black Mambas, named after the deadly snake, in South Africa.  “I felt privileged to see their work firsthand and I wanted to bring their stories to the world,” Holly commented.

Female rangers have hitherto been a rare sight in the African bush. Traditionally it has been a staunchly male domain: only some 11% – around 4,500 of 40,000 employed rangers – are women. Yet they play a vital role, not just in wildlife protection, but also in uplifting and educating their communities, encouraging local engagement in conservation, and acting as role models to women in cultures dominated by men.

“Women are natural communicators and protectors, they ease tensions and strengthen relationships within communities,” Holly said. “And through their success in these traditional male roles, they’re transforming attitudes towards women.”

World Female Ranger Week amplifies the voices of female wildlife rangers in the global media to give recognition and raise awareness and funds, as well as enabling women to share experiences and support each other.

This year’s campaign aims to build on last year’s extraordinary success. “In 2023, WFRW reached over 500 million viewers worldwide, sharing stories of over 500 female rangers from 24 countries on social media, videos, press articles and interviews,” Holly confirmed. And to date, grants totalling some £130,000 have been awarded to women rangers around the world.

Across Africa, the female ranger movement is building momentum, exemplified by NGO Conservation Lower Zambezi’s (CLZ) all-women team, Kufadza, set up in collaboration with Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW). We first wrote about Kufadza in our March 2022 Bush Telegraph newsletter. Since then, the women in Zambia’s first ever all-female community scout unit have gone from strength to strength.

Lisa Siamusantu, Molly Grace Ngulube, and Phyllis Makina – who we highlighted in our newsletter – have all progressed to fulfilling careers as Wildlife Police Officers with DNPW. Their new roles bring opportunities to work across the country and to rise up through the ranks as rangers, wardens and similar senior roles within DNPW, all thanks to their starting point with Kufadza.

As these and other women move on, new recruits have joined the team: at the end of 2023, 27% of CLZ’s 49-strong scout team were female, a laudable achievement. And in April, after a rigorous selection process, seven women began their training to join the ranks as community scouts, following in their predecessors’ formidable footsteps.

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