200730 Big Life community ranger Veronica Laanoi portrait

Veronica Laanoi

Age: 20

Home: Rombo

Rank/Position: Constable

Team: Kimana Sanctuary

When did you start working for Big Life? 2019

What made you decide to become a ranger? After completing my secondary school education, I had no hopes of furthering my studies due to lack of fees, so joining Big Life was a silver lining in the storm I was going through at the time.

What has been the experience of working as a ranger? At first it wasn’t easy, having to withstand all the attention my male colleagues gave us since working with female rangers was relatively new to them too. Then I had to prove myself and earn their respect, because as a Maasai girl, our culture presents many barriers. I had to stand tall and demand to be treated as an equal.

My colleagues have grown to be very supportive and duties are divided amongst us without favor or assigning lighter duties to me because I am a girl. 

What has been the reaction of your peers or friends back at home? My mother was worried a lot. Her friends would accuse her of giving her daughter away to be used by men in the bush. Then I was taken for basic ranger training at the Amboseli Conservation Academy, and during my pass out/graduation ceremony, my mother couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw me marching with the other rangers. That was when she realized that I could take care of myself.

At first my peers were pessimistic, but after I told them stories of the work I do, they are now jealous and wish to become rangers.

What challenges do you face at work?  The work of a ranger is very demanding, both physically and emotionally. As a ranger, I can be called to respond to human-elephant conflict incidences at night, anti-poaching operations, and normal patrols daily. These become harder during my menstrual cycle and though I push myself so as not to have to explain myself to my superiors, it’s not easy.

How has your work impacted your life?  At first I was skeptical of what to expect, and unsure of what my life as a ranger would become. But today, I am able to support my mother and siblings through school and improve their quality of life.

As a girl from a culture that presents many barriers to girls, this job will open doors to many other girls who might believe they are unable to provide for themselves or don’t believe in their own ability. 

Photo: Bobby Neptune

 Big Life rangers face extremely difficult challenges on a daily basis, which have only increased amidst a global pandemic. Keeping our rangers properly funded to continue their vital work in the field is more important than ever for the future of the wildlife, wild lands, and people of East Africa. Please consider a monthly contribution to our Ranger Club to support these dedicated rangers. Any amount helps! And for those that sign up in July, or increase your existing Ranger Club membership amount, you will be entered to win a gift featuring Big Life-branded merchandise.