Female Ranger Program Focuses on Conservation, Equality

Empowerment is one of the main goals.

female rangers in Great Plains program

Marielle Ruiz / Great Plains Foundation

Monitoring for poachers. Collecting data on habitats and species. Learning first aid, vehicle maintenance, and computer skills.

Seven women from Botswana in southern Africa are part of a new female ranger program, acquiring that kind of knowledge to protect conservation areas. In the next two years, two dozen local women will be trained to work in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. A similar program will be created for Zimbabwe’s Sapi Reserve.

The female ranger program is from Great Plains Foundation, the charitable arm of conservation tourism organization Great Plains. The project will train and deploy women to work in ecologically critical areas.

“Conservation areas need boots on the ground. Without these frontline rangers, poachers have it all their own way. But we often do not need armed anti-poaching forces, what we need are eyes and ears,” Georgie Hextall, Great Plains Foundation Programmes Manager, tells Treehugger.

“We need teams who will show up and patrol, understand tracks and routes, know the landscape and surrounding communities intimately, and then call in the armed teams that governments provide. And there is no reason at all that women should not be given equal opportunities to protect wildlife.”

Hextall points out that women who live in the rural communities that surround protected areas are offered few education opportunities or career options. Organizers hope that when offered education, resources, and skills through the ranger program, the women can become ambassadors for conservation and role models for girls in the area.

Applications Flooding In

Great Plains female rangers listening

Marielle Ruiz / Great Plains Foundation

The program launched late in 2021 when Great Plains put out a call for applications for female ranger jobs on the outskirts of the Okavango Delta. They had a budget for about a dozen or two rangers.

“Within 24 hours, we received 200 job applications,” Hextall says. “The response was extraordinary. And applications are still flooding in!”

The first seven women chosen have started six months of training that so far has included nature wilderness training, computer literacy, vehicle maintenance, and first aid. Shortly, they’ll work on developing skills in field monitoring, boat and 4x4 driving, report writing, and management training. They are also working with active ranger patrols, participating in removing snares, security, and species monitoring.

The rangers will be driving patrol vehicles and operating monitoring equipment in the field. They’ll track movement and data and the initial rangers will eventually help train future rangers.

“The majority of the female rangers do not have a background in conservation or wildlife-related studies therefore all this training is completely brand new to them,” Hextall says. “However, they have jumped in and fully committed to learning and applying their newfound skills. They want to teach others and pass on their knowledge and this training is providing them with what they need to do that.”

Eventually, the organization plans to develop this project into a certificate in wildlife and environmental field skills that would be offered by a training institute in Botswana.

Empowerment and Education

female rangers in truck

Marielle Ruiz / Great Plains Foundation

Batshabelakae Mweze, known as Lady B, is one of the first participants in the program.

“I wanted to enhance my knowledge and skills about nature, also enhance my career goals and give a hand in conserving natural resources,” she tells Treehugger. “Hard work pays; you need to believe in yourself.”

So far, training has been difficult but fulfilling, Lady B says.

“It was challenging and much harder than we thought it was going to be,” she says. “I am so grateful to be a part of this experience. I am very proud to tell you that I am coping well with everything.”

Women bring so many advantages to the role, according to Great Plains. They are better at de-escalating conflict, which means better relationships with community members. They often have more connections with community members which could lead to more tips about illegal wildlife activities such as poaching.

“Our female rangers are smart ladies, adapting to each of their training focuses with ease and grace. The advantage that they have with this program is that they are joining a bigger team, a team that takes supporting their fellow rangers very seriously,” Hextall says.

 Creators hope that the project will be important for both conservation and gender equality, offering critical roles to women who will work to protect wildlife and habitats.

Says Lady B: “We as women need to empower ourselves so that we can become better people in the world.”

View Article Sources
  1. "Introducing Our Female Rangers in the Okavango Delta." Great Plains Foundation, 2022.

  2. Georgie Hextall, Great Plains Foundation Programmes Manager

  3. "This Watch Wednesday, We Celebrate Our Female Rangers." Great Plains Foundation, 2022.