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First female rangers guarding Virunga National Park

A group of 14 women joined a paramilitary conservation brigade to become Virunga Park’s first female rangers. Being a ranger at Virunga is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in wildlife

Being a game ranger in one of the world’s most politically insecure areas is no easy job. With risks of armed attacks from rebel forces, add to that, the danger of attacks from wild animals and a volcano lurking below the surface, few people would expect a group of women to join a paramilitary conservation brigade and live in the jungle.

Despite the threatening conditions, a group of 14 women has become the first female rangers guarding wild animals, which include the endangered mountain gorillas of Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to National Geographic.

Women and men alike who pass the initial selection process must complete six months of training, including grueling physical exercises. They’re taught by former Belgian commandos and Congolese rangers Photo: Monique Jaques
Women and men alike who pass the initial selection process must complete six months of training, including grueling physical exercises. They’re taught by former Belgian commandos and Congolese rangers Photo: Monique Jaques

The women have dedicated their lives guarding the animals in a job “considered the most dangerous job in wildlife: [And] Since 1996, more than 150 Virunga rangers have been killed in the line of duty,” National Geographic reported.

The women have made it through sheer hard work and determination. According to Emmanuel de Merode, the park’s director, the women showed that “they’re tough” considering the recruitment and training process is rigorous.

“Women had applied before to become Virunga rangers, but none had passed the rigorous selection process and subsequent training—until January 2014”, the website says.

Female rangers who made it through the selection process speak with pride of how they’re ambassadors for other women in Congo Photo: Monique Jaques
Female rangers who made it through the selection process speak with pride of how they’re ambassadors for other women in Congo Photo: Monique Jaques

Their daily duties include guarding visitors, escorting tourists, and patrolling in the park, wary of the dangers of wild animals, “armed animal poachers, illegal loggers, and anti-government rebels based inside the park,” National Geographic says.

The park is home to around 300 mountain gorillas, some 20,000 hippopotamuses also live in its rivers and the park is habitat to elephants and lions amongst other species.

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