Meet the Akashinga, Zimbabwe’s all-female anti-poaching team
These courageous women have revolutionised the way animals are protected in Zimbabwe.
In the local dialect Akashinga means ‘The Brave Ones’.
This highly-trained and fiercely devoted group of all-female rangers more than live up to their name.
The Akashinga were founded in 2017 by former Australian special forces soldier and anti-poaching leader Damien Mander.
They patrol five former trophy hunting reserves in Zimbabwe’s Lower Zambezi Valley, protecting elephants, rhinos and lions.
Covering more than 20 kilometres a day, they seize snares and clear out poachers camps in one of the most hostile and dangerous environments on the planet.
Since they were founded, the Akashinga have made hundreds of arrests and driven down poaching in the area by 80%.
Their own lives have been transformed as well.
Many of the Akashinga are survivors of domestic abuse or sexual assault. Others were struggling to support their families
As rangers they have gained confidence, respect and a regular income. And they’ve changed attitudes towards female roles in local communities as well.
Holly Budge, from the wildlife charity ‘How Many Elephants‘, has witnessed the unique impact of the Akashinga first hand.
As well as being kick-ass rangers, she says, these women have been highly successful at easing local tensions and strengthening relationships within their communities too.
Now the efforts of the Akashinga and other all-female anti-poaching groups from around the world are being recognised with the launch of World Female Ranger Day on June 23.
The aim is to empower more women to become rangers and provide the necessary support for them to build a long-lasting, meaningful career in conservation.
If the success of the Akashinga in Zimbabwe is anything to go by, it’s exactly what the world’s wildlife needs.
To find out more about World Female Ranger Day and how you can support it, visit worldfemalerangerday.org
Main image: Akashinga on patrol in Zimbabwe (© Brent Stirton)