by Pru Goudie
Real women, real stories and real impact; The World Female Ranger Awards, spearheaded by international NGO, How Many Elephants, give international recognition to female wildlife rangers who have shown exemplary service and commitment to conservation.
Image: Holly Budge, Founder of How Many Elephants
The World Female Ranger Award winner is Grace Kotee Zansi from Liberia. She is a biologist, elephant tracker and ranger actively involved with Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection, the first and only chimpanzee sanctuary in Liberia. With more than 7000 chimpanzees living in its dense forests, Liberia is home to the second largest population of West African chimpanzees. But like many places, Liberia falls victim to the challenges of climate change and human/wildlife conflict.
Grace grew up in a remote village and from a young age was deeply troubled by the sight of people hunting and consuming wildlife. She made a solemn vow to safeguard Liberia’s precious forest resources. Today, the rapid development encroaching upon the East Nimba Nature Reserve is posing a grave threat to its fragile ecosystem. In Grace’s words: “If the forest could speak, the first thing she would say is, I’m under threat.” Driven by her childhood pledge, Grace has overcome stereotypical gender norms through her work as a ranger, joining forces with her team to protect Liberia’s chimpanzees from poachers, as well as visiting and educating local communities who have had past conflict with chimpanzees.
Image: Grace Kotee Zansi, World Female Ranger Award winner from Liberia
“I dedicate this award to all female Rangers in Africa. This is a win for us all. I'm greatly honoured to represent female rangers in Liberia and across the globe who work in extreme conditions to conserve nature. Receiving this award is very exciting for me,” says Grace.
Founder of How Many Elephants, Holly Budge, launched the World Female Ranger Award in 2021 in conjunction with her pioneering initiative, World Female Ranger Week (June 23-30th). Holly and her team have identified over 5500 female rangers around the world.
Holly says, “This year we have multiple award categories and are delighted to give recognition to female rangers, plus providing grants sponsored by How Many Elephants. I have seen the tangible impact female rangers are making around the world, protecting wildlife, uplifting communities and empowering women. I salute all our award winners. Thank you for the vital work you are doing to protect wildlife.”
Less than 11% of the global wildlife ranger workforce is female. With women being natural communicators, protectors and investing their earned income in their families, bringing gender equity into the workforce enhances community conservation efforts and relationships.
The inaugural World Female Ranger ‘Resilience’ Award winner is Mariani ‘Bam’ Ramli, Founder and President of the Gibbon Conservation Society (GCS) in Malaysia. Bam single-handedly founded GCS in 2013 after meeting ‘Ellek’, a confiscated infant gibbon. Despite her lack of knowledge, she volunteered to care for him and learnt everything she could about gibbons. Eventually, Bam encountered other distressed gibbons in need and in response, she sold her possessions and moved to a secluded estate to provide a natural home for them. As Bam spoke out against gibbon ownership, she faced backlash, and some villagers labelled her as a ‘witch’. Over the last decade, Bam has faced great adversity in her fight for the gibbons but despite the hardship she has built a strong organization. Today, she and GCS operate two rehabilitation projects. From struggling to afford meals, Bam now provides livelihood opportunities, especially for women and indigenous people. Recently, Bam has successfully managed to get a pair of gibbons to relearn their wild behaviours and reproduce. "To actualize change in wildlife conservation, tangible actions and sustainable partnerships between organisations, women and indigenous communities need to be applied," says Bam.
The inaugural World Female Ranger ‘Trailblazer’ Award winner is Pera Pinem from the Sumatran Ranger Project in Indonesia. Pera was the only female ranger in North Sumatra (and possibly Indonesia) for three years. Through her work, she protects Sumatran elephants, orangutans and tigers and is actively working with local communities to reduce human/wildlife conflict. To become a ranger, Pera had to go against her family and culture. It was not deemed acceptable for women to be working in the jungle, let alone sleeping besides a man they’re not married to or related to. Pera has experienced much prejudice due to her decision to become a ranger but in doing so, has paved the way for other women to become rangers. "Winning this award is something I’d never have imagined before. I am very happy and still can't believe this! I feel very blessed for the trust given to me. I am very proud to be a ranger" says Pera.
The inaugural World Female Ranger ‘Leadership’ Award winner is Caroline Olory, the first female Conservator of Park for the National Park Service in Nigeria. Through Caroline’s efforts, alongside her team, she has improved park protection and conservation in Cross River National Park and Old Oyo National Park. Caroline has increased the involvement of women in decision-making in communities surrounding the parks and has strengthened park/community relationships with state governments and NGOs. She is a role model to girls in the surrounding communities and schools, piquing their interest in education and conservation. Often referred to as the “Iron Lady”, Caroline has delivered talks on the role of women in wildlife conservation to many university students in Nigeria. “Thank you for recognizing the work we do as female rangers, protecting our biodiversity in Nigeria alongside our male counterparts. It is not easy in the midst of men, many of whom still think the place of women should remain in the kitchen.”
Image: World Female Ranger ‘Leadership’ Award, Caroline Olory, Nigeria
Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, an ambassador for World Female Ranger Week, says, “gender equity in the conservation arena is such an important and prevalent topic. There is still much work to do but the World Female Ranger Awards play a key role in raising awareness of the work of female rangers and women in conservation in the broader picture"
- END –
We are proud to have Holly speaking at the ATN24 Conference on 29 February.
World Female Ranger Week (WFRW) is the first-ever awareness week that supports female rangers, founded by registered UK charity (1186238) How Many Elephants. ATN supports and celebrates WFRW for for shining a spotlight on female wildlife rangers around the world, through awareness and fundraising.
The next Adventure Travel Networking Conference & Marketplace will take place on
27 & 29 February 2024 as a hybrid event.
Register your interest HERE
Pru Goudie - ATN founder