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'Team Lioness' is the All-Female Ranger Unit Protecting Kenya's Wildlife

The putrid stench of a dead lion, killed by poachers, wafting from the forest would sicken young Eunice Maantei as she was growing up in Imurutot, a village bordering the expansive Amboseli National Park. So did the unpleasant smell of charcoal burning deep inside the forest.

"One day, I will stop this destruction," she would say to herself. That day came in February 2019. Ms Maantei, now 20, is one of the eight women in Team Lioness, an all-female community ranger unit formed last year.

The unit patrols Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR), which is part of the 150,000-acre community land encircling the park. They are backed up by the 68 all-male members of lgulului Community Wildlife Rangers (OCWR).

The OOGR, which straddles the Kenya-Tanzania border, hosts the natural habitats and migratory corridors for various species of wild animals, including the park's 2,000 elephants, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw).

Wildlife safety

Besides ensuring the safety of wildlife and biodiversity, Team Lioness educates locals on the importance of taking part in wildlife conservation, which the people in Ms Maantei's community depends on for survival.

Team Lioness educates locals (Photo: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group)

The women, carefully selected from the eight Maasai clans living around the national park -- one of Kenya's major heritage sites -- are part of an even bigger cultural mission.

Their work has helped in the fight against gender stereotyping and discrimination in the community.

For, while maa traditions prohibited social interaction between men and women, the fact that the team works alongside men and is providing enviable leadership in conservation has done a lot to change the community's perception of women.

This has, in turn, debunked myths that limit women's role in society to domestic chores.

"It used to be a taboo for women and men to sit or eat together," says Ms Maantei. "Today, however, we freely interact with the male rangers and even go out together on patrols. That was unheard-of in our community," says the sixth-born in a family of eight.

As fate would have it, the opportunity provided by Ifaw coincided with Ms Maantei's completion of her secondary education.

Source: Nation


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