Packing her bags to go home for the first time in over four months, Maasai ranger Purity Lakara — who patrols lands in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, known for its free-roaming elephants and views of Mount Kilimanjaro — is overjoyed to be seeing her family for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic was declared.
“I missed eating together, playing and hanging around with my baby girl, fetching water for my mum — even helping my brothers herding cattle. I have missed everything that we usually do while I’m at home,” she says.
Lakara, 23, is one of eight women — the first in their families to secure employment — who make up Team Lioness, a unit within the Olugului Community Wildlife Rangers (OCWR).
The rangers patrol the Olugului/Olarashi Group Ranch (OOGR), a 580-square-mile horseshoe of community-owned land that almost encircles Amboseli National Park, a safari destination 134 miles southeast of Nairobi.
Children run to welcome Purity Amleset Lakara, a member of the all-female IFAW-supported Team Lioness on her arrival at her home village in Meshenani, Amboseli, in Kenya.
When Kenya closed its regional and international borders and the tourism industry and livestock markets on which the community depends disappeared, OCWR canceled all leave and asked its rangers, including Team Lioness, to stay at their posts indefinitely to protect wildlife from desperate poachers. Now that the country is cautiously yet optimistically opening and safari visitors are returning, the rangers are finally able to return to their