Team Lioness - KenyaWe're transforming what it means to be a woman ranger
An IFAW vehicle rumbles through Kenya’s Amboseli National Park in search of wildlife. At the wheel is 30-year-old Eunice Peneti, a member of East Africa’s first all-female ranger unit, Team Lioness. She spots some giraffes, then a group of elephants with a calf. After following the elephants to make sure the calf looks healthy, she drives on, happy to be able to patrol these expansive plains by vehicle without having to rely on her male colleagues to shuttle her around.
Already a pioneer as part of Team Lioness, Eunice recently became the first female ranger in Amboseli to learn how to drive and obtain a license. In the patriarchal Maasai culture, driving is still seen as a predominantly male activity, with vehicles considered too large and challenging for women to handle. Men in the Maasai community are typically unwilling to ride with a female driver—even one who is licensed.
Despite these barriers, Eunice was determined. While working with the Olgulului Community Wildlife Rangers (OCWR) as a radio operator, she found herself in several situations where no one was available to drive. She contacted IFAW requesting support for driver training, which she quickly completed. Her ability to drive now makes her a valuable resource for Team Lioness, her community, and conservation efforts in Amboseli.
With Eunice in the driver’s seat, Team Lioness is more self-reliant and can cover more ground when patrolling community lands, since the female rangers no longer rely on the availability of male drivers to travel long distances. “On foot, we can cover 30 kilometers, but on a vehicle, we can cover up to 60 or 70 kilometers,” says Eunice. IFAW has also provided a vehicle for the team’s use, further facilitating their conservation and community engagement work.
Fellow ranger Jackson Sitonik says: “I am happy because now that Eunice has joined us as a driver, she will assist me and my work will become easier, or maybe when I am in one side of the Olgulului Group Ranch, Eunice can assist on the other side.” The rangers’ overarching responsibilities, he explains, are to protect and preserve wild animals and provide security to the community.
“I am very proud to be the first one in our culture or in Amboseli to become a driver because now my colleagues can see that it is possible for a woman to be a driver,” says Eunice. “For me, taking care of animals and other human beings is a big thing because I am looking out for our future generations so that they also may find what we have preserved and continue to protect it.”