Maasai women against poachers – Kenya’s first female rangers | DW Documentary

Maasai women against poachers – Kenya’s first female rangers | DW Documentary

Maasai women against poachers – Kenya’s first female rangers | DW Documentary

Maasai women Leah and Purity are rangers in the Kenyan bushveld. Every day, they travel around Amboseli National Park. They never know which animal they will come across next: It could be a buffalo attacking them or a herd of elephants approaching dangerously close to the villages.

The two young rangers work at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, in Amboseli National Park. Every day, they walk 25 kilometers through the savannah to track down wild animals and document their populations. The more they know about the animals, the better they can protect the people in the surrounding villages.

It is often Maasai herdsmen who experience conflicts with wild animals while searching for food with their herds. That’s when Leah and Purity are called in. They might need to mediate because a herder has lost a cow and wants to retaliate against the wild animal. They might need to reassure a traumatized village woman after a hyena attack on herself and her herd of goats.

Leah and Purity don’t have it easy in life themselves – as Maasai women, they have to fight against discrimination and rigid traditions. However, the female rangers have gained respect and the number of wild animal killings has decreased since they started patrolling the bushveld on a daily basis. This is a story about two women who are committed to the peaceful coexistence of humans and wild animals — and who achieve their own personal independence in the process.

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Video Transcript

Wild animals roam at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. Courageous women are defying tradition to protect them. Team Lioness? The team of the lionesses? The lion is the most dangerous animal. And weíre the bravest women in the world. Thatís why we call ourselves lionesses. After all, weíre women, we canít say weíre lions.

Itís Monday morning. The rangers begin the new week searching for tracks and traces of wild animals. Look. They came this way. What are they? Zebra tracks! Thatís a zebra hoof print. It went this way. Zebra hooves arenít cloven. Theyíre like donkeys. Thatís why theyíre easy to recognize.

Three, four, five, six, seven. Eight. Eight Grantís gazelles. Giraffe… One, two, three. Purity has been on the job for four years. Lima, Oscar, Charlie, from Lima-Bravo, mobile calling. Lima-Bravo… Animal sighting. 26 Zebras. Purity and Leah had to fight hard for their jobs. Training was only opened up to women four years ago.

The area they cover is around Amboseli National Park. Itís on the border between Kenya and Tanzania. The park itself is a reserve almost 400 square kilometers in size. It has the densest population of wild animals in East Africa. Of course, the wild animals repeatedly make their way

Into the neighboring Maasai villages and that causes conflicts. Weíve had to face many challenges. People and animals live here side-by-side. Itís clear wild animals will cause accidents again and again, especially the lions and elephants. The most important thing for us it to protect the wild animals

And ensure theyíre doing well and not being threatened by poachers. People and animals should live together here peacefully. Without getting in each otherís way. Leah comes from one of these Maasai villages. Sheís been a ranger now for six months. This is a very dangerous place. Wild animals could be hiding here anywhere.

If they pick up your scent, most of the time they disappear into the bush. But they can also attack you before youíve even realised theyíre there. The rangers risk their lives at work. Daily they hike 25 kilometers through the savanna, the habitat of elephants, lions and hyenas.

During their patrols theyíve counted as many as 2,000 wild animals in six months. Most are herders. They have the most trouble with the wildlife because they come across the animals again and again. When did the lions attack your cow? Last week. A lion? Yes, without teeth, but with claws. Was he so old?

Yes, heís old and weak. But heís already attacked my herd twice. He just attacks but canít really get them. He hurts them with his claws because he has no teeth. What happened to the calf? We found it on this hill. Itís head was torn up. Do you sleep on this hill?

At the bottom of it. How many animals have you lost already? Loads. How do you deal with that? Iím sad, but what can I do against them? Itís not easy when a lion kills a cow. The owner is furious and would like to kill the lion. Because it killed his cow.

Iím a ranger, but Iím also a teacher for the community. They trust me. I teach them how to deal with the wild animals. Itís important to Team Lioness that they have close contact with the surrounding villages. May we? Hold it in front of your face. Hold it really tight. I’ll show you.

You can do it! I always do it a home. The women trust us. We chat with them when we visit. We ask them if theyíve noticed anything while they were collecting firewood. Which animals did they see? Theyíre usually the best-informed about whatís going on around them. Nice that youíre visiting again.

Itís been awhile. Youíre always very welcome. Did you make them yourself? Yes. Arenít they heavy? No. Is that a chain? No, it would be too short. When itís finished, Iíll close it into a bracelet. What about the buffalo? One comes to our watering hole, then goes back into the bush.

Do they bother you? No, we donít fetch water every day. Women in the Maasai culture have little say and donít work for pay. When I was ten years old, I understood it wasnít easy to be a woman in the Maasai culture. I watched my mother – how she worked every day.

She got up and milked the cows. Then she got us ready for school and herded the cows out to graze. She fetched water and brought the cows back in their shelter. She was responsible for everything. She worked from four a.m. to eleven at night.

Iím furious that the men look down on us women. They say we donít do anything. They say we canít even do housework right. Or find a job, like we have on Team Lioness. During the work week, Purity and Leah live at Camp Lemomo, together with their male colleagues.

They relax, sleep and eat under one roof. Normally, the Maasaiís daily routine separates the genders. For the Maasai men in the camp, living together with their female colleagues took some getting used to at the start. In their culture, close contact with women is limited to family members.

You always have to be informed about whatís going on. Thatís right. Could you stand up so I can move forward? The men in our village are very different from our colleagues. We live closely with our co-workers – like with siblings.

Thatís why the people in the villages donít have a very good opinion of us. They look down on us and gossip about us. Itís really not very supportive. What prayers can do. True. Hopefully, God will send you twins. Let us pray. Send Nkaru a wife. Protect the government. Everyone should pray for that.

You are blessed. May God send us luck. May he guide us… When weíre walking in the bush… May he protect us… With his lovely fragrance. For Purity being allowed to say the dinner time prayer is small triumph – because thatís a male domain. She and Leah had to apply to the village elders

To get their jobs on Team Lioness. They also had to prove they were physically fit and well educated. At the start, the others thought we would just have a good time with the men, all alone with them in the bush. People had really dirty thoughts. But over time they came to understand

We were here for work and no other reason. Itís February. The sun rises at 6:45 a.m. Itís time for roll call. Jump in, right turn. Running on the spot. One two. Three, four. One, two. Three, four. At the beginning, the male rangers didnít believe

Weíd be up to the challenges. The job is so hard. We have to hike through the bush for hours. They thought weíd never keep up because we were women. They didnít know any women before who did this type of work. We are the first. One, down, up. Count out loud, down. One.

Louder. Straighten your leg. Two. Down. Three. Keep your head further down. Four. Down. More than 800 elephants are living in the region at this time. There are no national park boundaries for them. They migrate from park to park and regularly cross Maasai territory. The other side… The other side.

The female rangers are called out again and again. A herd of elephants has approached a village. The elephant cows are restless because they have young with them. Itís a dangerous situation for the female rangers. On one of my first patrols, we were attacked by a buffalo.

And some were injured. I was quite frustrated and wanted to quit the job. But our colleagues were so encouraging. Today I know that these are the challenges I have to face. After that, I never thought of giving up. Dangerous missions make for strong bonds.

I love this work. It pleases me. What do you think, Purity? What I think of this job? Without this job, we Maasai women wouldnít get any recognition in our community. This work has improved our personal situation. I have a question: you want to have a future

And we are making it possible for you. But we are also Maasai. So what will our women think of us? I want to work like you do. The money I earn I bring home and share with my husband. Weíll invest it together in our childrenís education. Purity seizes an opportunity.

Our time has come, move over. Leahís finally got a few days off, after three weeks of really hard work. Sheís visiting her parents, in Oldepe, just ten kilometers from the camp. Leah grew up with nine siblings here. Her mother is always the first person she greets. Hi, Mom, how are you?

Give me your bag. Home at last. I am tired! Hello. How are you? Good. And how are you? Good. We donít have anything to worry about. We took part of the herd into the forest. Leah finished high school two years ago. Her five sisters only have a basic education.

Early on, Leah was determined to fight for her education. Her parents supported her decision to have a career. Leah is the only woman in the village who earns money. When Leah is with her family, she lives the traditional life of the Maasai. At home Iím a completely different person.

My obligations in the village are very different from those at work. Most people have a bad opinion of my work, because Maasai women normally donít move out of their family homes. They said Iíd change too much. And Iíd lose sight of my goals.

The way they see it, an independent woman only causes problems, because sheís too dominant. She can feed herself, earns her own money and is independent of her family. Leah actually should have already been married some time ago. Many Maasai women are betrothed to men when they are children…

For the price of a few goats or sheep. Our traditions destroy young peopleís dreams, especially those of women. I always wanted to be a veterinarian. Everyone here just made fun of me and said, ìYou want to be a vet? But youíre just a woman. You canít become a vet.

You should get married, have children, start a family.î I understood then that they wanted to destroy my dreams. Education is the only way to develop a new level of consciousness among the children. The Ngongunaro School was opened a short time ago in the Maasai region.

200 girls and boys are being taught in mixed classes. That should reinforce togetherness. Hello, children. Hello. What do you think when you see this uniform? A ranger! That’s right, a ranger! My name is Purity. Purity Lakara. Iím a ranger. A female ranger. What do you do when you find a dead lion?

First, I try to find out why he died. Was it a natural death? Or was he poisoned? Was he speared or stabbed or caught in a snare? Can you take breaks, or do you work all the time? You see us often in the bush. After lunch we get a short break.

But we have to work on weekends, too. We work the whole week. Only when Iím sick or very exhausted… Then I can have some time off. I went to a remote school just like this one. And today Iím standing here because I worked hard.

Iíll tell you, everything is possible for boys and girls, as long as you make the effort. Thanks for listening. God protect you. Be disciplined and keep on working hard. Thank you very much, and see you later. Purity is an example for the school pupils, a role model they can follow.

She earns money and can determine the course of her own life. Leah didnít have any role models in her youth. No one, who had dared to live the way sheíd dreamed of. Most of the women around her are dependent on their husbands. Leah has turned down all offers of marriage up to now.

She simply bought the goats and sheep herself from her salary as a ranger. Does this nanny have a kid? Yes. And where is it? Here! Did you milk this one? No. Donít spill the little that we have. Mama, hold onto her. She has lots of milk.

Iím proud I own goats and sheep, because in our Maasai culture, unmarried women arenít normally allowed to own any animals. Once you get married, you get animals as gifts. But I already have some now. That earns respect in my family. Iím no longer powerless.

I can ask my siblings for a favor, even when Iím not here. They help me because I can pay them for it. Let it boil first. Youíre still young. You donít know how to brew up tea. I know how it works. Leahís mother wasnít allowed to attend school as a child.

Sheís always supported her daughterís dreams for exactly that reason. I love her for it. That she went to school. I hope sheíll still achieve even more. I thank God she worked so hard and has reached so much. Iíve always prayed for that. Leah still dreams of becoming a veterinarian.

Working as a ranger is paving the way to that goal. The work of Team Lioness is also paying off for the animals. Despite government bans, poachers still hunt elephants illegally. Each year, in Kenya alone, 100 tons of ivory are confiscated. The price for tusk ivory can be around 1,000 euros a kilo.

In the meantime, there are hardly any poachers in the female rangersí patrol area. The teamís daily presence has frightened off many a criminal. In our culture, a man is only a real man when he kills a lion. And people only respect him when heís killed ten lions.

But the men today donít kill lions anymore. Today, we protect the lions together with the men. Since Iíve been part of Team Lioness, thereíve been lots of positive changes. Weíre placing so much more value on protecting animals. There arenít any cases of poaching anymore in this area.

Sometimes someone kills a gazelle, but not for economic gain, but because people are hungry for food. But these cases are very rare. Over there. Here it is. A tortoise. Is it sleeping? Yes. Now the place is blessed. This one in Maasai, we believe that those small kids

Who urinate in bed so if we catch them, we make them sit on it. An hourís drive away from Purity and Leahís camp is a small town with almost 1,000 residents. Itís called Kimana. There are shopping opportunities, a clinic, schools and businesses. Kimana is a commercial center for the Maasai.

Tuesday is market day. The women go shopping for ranger camp supplies. May we come in? Kirayian Katamboi, who everyone lovingly calls Mama Esther, has set up a commissary here. This is the food weíre taking with us today? Has it been weighed?

Not yet. Here thereís beans and cornmeal. Sugar, and oil is back here. Mama Esther was one of the first people to campaign for the rights of Maasai women. She convinced the International Fund for Animal Welfare, to support Team Lioness as a pilot project.

Iím so happy when I see our girls from the Maasai villages. They prove they donít have to get married and can work independently and build their own lives. The weight has to be right. Fill it up some more. Letís lift it together. We were wrong for a long time.

But now we can accept that our children must go to school. These young people will lead us into the future. The women from Team Lioness can change our culture. We can do the same hard work as the men. Weíve got to make the young generation aware

That itís a good job and you can make yourself independent by doing it, and thatís something good. So weíre enriching our culture. The women make time to chat between the afternoon shift and dinner. They talk about all sorts of things, fashion, men, but also about their cultural burden.

Many Maasai are subject to painful rituals. When you get branded, your eyes hurt. They become red and swollen. They say it heals faster if it bleeds a little. That was true for me. But what I really hate is the removal of the bottom two front teeth.

I hate that too. I canít pronounce some words at all anymore. They took them out, even though you didnít want it? They were violently taken out when I was four years old. I can still remember the day. They used a knife. Theyíre allegedly doing it for beauty.

But they can see youíre Maasai from the brand, too. Some people believe you must share food with a donkey if your teeth arenít taken out. Is that true? Like you! You share with the donkey, right? There are traditions weíve got to get rid of. Like female circumcision. That doesnít help anyone.

Itís torture for the women and denies all their rights. The body is mutilated. Are there long-term consequences? Yes. Whatís the worst can happen? You can get diseases like tetanus from the rusty razor blade. And giving birth is difficult. There are already positive changes in our culture.

And the young generation is ready for change. There are good Maasai cultural traditions, but most we should get rid of. Female genital mutilation shows how long the process of change can take. Itís still being practiced as a matter of course in remote regions today.

Giraffes, gnus and elephants move through regions populated by the Maasai as they forage and search for water. The predators, like hyenas, approach the villages, too. The Maasaiís goats and sheep are easy prey. But village residentsí lives can be threatened as well. When people are attacked, the female rangers are always called. Greetings!

My nameís Lantei. We spent the whole day out with the goats and sheep. We were leading them to water holes. I watched them carefully until the evening. Until we got lost. Then hyenas showed up all at once and scattered the herd. The boy ran one way and I ran the other.

What are you most afraid of? The wild animals. Tell me about it. When the hyenas and elephants came closer my boy started to cry. I thought I was going to die. Donít be afraid. Weíre here for you. Weíll help you get over it. God will keep protecting us. We work into the nighttime.

I was trained for situations like that and I handle people with understanding. Male colleagues often react with roughness and toughness when they speak to villagers. I achieve my aim by handling them with sensitivity and never reacting aggressively. See you soon. Good bye. The rainy season ends in February.

Then, a great many animals come into the female rangersí area. The water holes are full. That means really long working days for Purity, Leah and the rest of the team. They use the opportunity to observe the animals up close. Do you still know what heís called? Nope, Iíve forgotten.

Look, some water buffalo. Weíre getting really close. Thereís two more. Theyíre all bulls. This is their spot. Theyíve just come out of the water. That oneís aggressive. Youíre right. A fighter. If you get out now, heíll launch you through the air. Purity is speaking from experience.

Once she was suddenly charged by a water buffalo. She only survived because she played dead. In my work, we continually get really close to wild animals – dangerous animals. If this elephant charges full speed, then my life is in danger. He hasnít noticed us. Because heís eating.

We can only study the animals behavior and find out how theyíre doing by getting close to them. The animal is getting used to me and my uniform. That reinforces our connection. During my work time I should struggle doing something good to make also my future good and also my familyís,

Yes I must do this, so I must struggle in life to achieve something good. My experience is that the role of women is becoming stronger and Iíd like to encourage girls to go their own way. Cooperation and living together with men works well and thereís nothing objectionable about it.

It doesnít mean we donít respect our culture. Quite the opposite. I would like our culture to change. Team Lioness goes out brimming with confidence and energy to play soccer with their male colleagues after a full working day. And even if they lose, theyíre still winners.

I hope with our work weíre able to secure animal populations and at the same time get our community to reconsider. Iíd like to work hard to support women. They should get further education and build up a strong network. Team Lioness marks the start of changing times.

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Video “Maasai women against poachers – Kenya’s first female rangers | DW Documentary” was uploaded on 03/07/2024 by DW Documentary Youtube channel.