This Woman Helps Protect People Saving African Wildlife
It’s no secret that ivory poaching has been a major issue in East Africa. But did you know that between 2011 and 2015, Tanzania lost on average 30 elephants a day, and Kenya lost an average of eight to 10 elephants a day? Thankfully, there are rangers who roam the wilderness, tracking poachers to protect the wildlife. But those rangers need protection, too. That’s why Raabia Hawa, a former wildlife journalist, founded the Ulinzi Africa Foundation in 2014.
“I learned about the elephant poaching crisis,” Hawa tells CircleAround, "and after I joined a ranger team and saw the first poached elephant, I never wanted to stop until I caught all the poachers and brought them to justice."
The Ulinzi Africa Foundation is based in Kenya’s Tana Delta region and aims to maintain safe habitats for animals, enforce anti-poaching, engage with local communities to raise awareness about wildlife and environmental preservation, and help ensure Kenyan rangers receive training in First Aid, field communication, and tracking. The Foundation also helps protect the wildlife rangers, whose lives are at risk on the job.
In much of Africa, little is known about rangers, so many people wrongly believe they are poachers themselves, or are working with poachers to do more harm than good. Hawa even lost friends who were rangers — dying at the hands of poachers — while in the field trying to protect wildlife in East Africa. This experience motivated her to do something to protect the people who are protecting animals. “The hardships faced by rangers on the ground,” she tells CircleAround — “they deserve better.”
According to the Ulinzi Africa Foundation website, the organization is “East Africa’s first nonprofit focused on improving ranger welfare, empowerment, and facilitation.” To educate the public about the important work of rangers, Hawa also helped facilitate the Walk with Rangers program in 2014 as part of the Ulinzi Africa Foundation. This program was an experience where 71 people from around the world hiked more than 300 miles from Arusha, Tanzania, to Nairobi, Kenya, alongside 30 rangers.
According to Hawa, Walk with Rangers “spiraled into a fundraising success and situational experience with immense educational value. We trekked... over 15 days, enduring harsh varied terrain and weather conditions, to show solidarity with rangers in Africa.” The effort raised $40,000 raised and was used to purchase equipment for the rangers. Each subsequent Walk produced funds, which went toward building the ranger program in the Tana Delta region.
Today, Hawa continues to build upon the foundation built by Ulinzi. “We are about to embark on the first GPS-tracking and monitoring program on a coastal lion in East Africa,” she tells CircleAround. “I had a close encounter with the lions in Tana Delta about 10 years ago, and I have always wanted to directly save them. This presents an opportunity to do that. I'm really thrilled!”
World Ranger Day is July 31. To celebrate, CircleAround is proud to highlight the amazing female rangers working to eliminate poaching, maintain animal habitats, and preserve the welfare of animals in Africa and beyond.