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Inspiring Women in South Sudan to Take Control of their Lives

Bibiana Martin can hardly remember a time when she didn’t live or work in the bush. The 32-year-old has been protecting South Sudan’s forests since she begged her grandfather to join the wildlife rangers at age 12, because her family could not afford to send her to school. As one of just three female wildlife officers – out of 25 – at this outpost, she fights to protect South Sudan’s parks and animals in the wake of prolonged conflict, amid a lack of resources and an increasing risk of poaching and forest degradation. Bangangai is approximately 170sq km (65.6sq miles) in size and is one of 19 protected areas in South Sudan – 13 game reserves and six national parks – covering more than 13 percent of the terrain. While the reserve is home to chimpanzees, bongo and the African golden cat, among other animals, they are often hard to find. As part of her job, Martin also raises awareness with the surrounding community, speaking to them about the importance of preserving parks and not killing animals. She also catches poachers – or tries to. Despite rangers being forced to stop patrolling during the civil war years – with Martin remaining at the headquarters in Tambura during that time – across the years she has apprehended about 12 people for poaching, she says, even though many are let off with just a warning.