National Geographic : 2019 Jun
She stares at the image as the truck she’s rid- ing in bounces over the rutted road. The cat’s neck is slashed and its bloody paws hang slack. “Before this job, I didn’t think about the ani- mals,” she says. Now Kumire, 33, and her all-female wildlife ranger team, the Akashinga, are among the ani- mals’ fiercest protectors. The rangers are an arm of the nonprofit International Anti-Poaching Foundation, which manages Zimbabwe’s Phund- undu Wildlife Area, a 115-square-mile former trophy hunting tract in the Zambezi Valley eco- system. The greater region has lost thousands of Mander, a former Australian special forces soldier who has trained game rangers in Africa for more than a decade, leads the women through hand-to-hand combat exercises. After years of training male rangers, Mander con- cluded that women are often better suited for the job. He says they’re more adept at de-escalating violent situations and less sus- ceptible to bribery. 30 30 0mi 0km ZAMBIA ZIMBABWE PHUNDUNDU WILDLIFE AREA MANA POOLS NATIONAL PARK MATUSADONA NATIONAL PARK AKASHINGA BASE KafueZambeziLakeKar iba AREA ENLARGED AFRICA ZIMBABWE KATIE ARMSTRONG, NGM STAFF SOURCE: INTERNATIONAL ANTI-POACHING FOUNDATION Sgt. Vimbai Kumire holds up a photo of a dead leopard on her phone. WILDLIFE WATCH The nonprofit National Geographic Society helped fund this story. To read more reporting about wildlife crime, visit natgeo.com/wildlife-watch.