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The Women Who Left their Families to Guard Kenya’s Wildlife

Eight rangers form the all-female International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Team Lioness, a patrol unit among 76 rangers from the local Maa community. Their job is to protect wildlife from poaching, trafficking in bushmeat and human-wildlife conflict. They have not seen their families since country-wide travel restrictions were imposed following the first case of coronavirus in Kenya in March. The Covid-19 pandemic has decimated tourism revenues and left donor-funded wildlife conservation hanging in the balance. In neighbouring Tanzania, many rangers have lost their jobs as tourism has dwindled, putting more pressure on Team Lioness and other community rangers because they are forced to patrol larger areas. There are fears that fewer rangers could prompt a spike in poaching, threatening the delicate balance of the ecosystem and future tourism. Part of the ranger’s job is to relay information to the national Kenya Wildlife Service, and talk to the community to gather intelligence – though this activity has become more difficult during the pandemic.