- Date: January 25, 2012
Sidonie Asseme’s father wanted her to be a nurse so that she could provide care to people in their village in eastern Cameroon, Africa.
Despite her father’s reluctance, Sidonie’s mind was set on serving in the army. In 2005, she passed a test to join the Cameroon army and then in 2006 went to a recruitment meeting for game rangers, but did not tell her father.
“Daddy was unpleasantly surprised when he found out I was already training to be a forest ranger,” says Asseme. “Today he supports my efforts and says he is very proud of me.”
Although rewarding, it has been a difficult journey. “We went through a very challenging training. There were times I felt like giving up, but that omniscient voice kept urging me to go on,” says Asseme.
WWF and Cameroon's Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife worked together to finance the recruitment and training of Asseme and other rangers to help protect species and forests. They were taught how to use sophisticated mapping and tracking technologies, and how to plan antipoaching surveillance missions.
After training, Asseme was sent to a town near Cameroon’s Lobéké National Park. She participates in several antipoaching operations and helps teach residents about the value of their surroundings.
Like most game rangers who work in Central Africa, Asseme has been threatened and assaulted by wildlife criminals.
She will never forget the day poachers locked her and three other rangers in a house and threatened to set them on fire. “We had obtained authorization from the village’s traditional leader to search houses where we suspected ivory tusks had been hidden. But we got surrounded by irate youths inside one of the houses for four hours. They threatened to kill us. I was really frightened,” Asseme says. Using their training the rangers broke free and escaped safely.
It’s not all bad; so far Asseme has contributed to the arrest and detention of 15 poachers.
Breaking gender barriers
As a female ranger, Asseme is in the minority. But she says her gender does not affect her work.
“I do not feel any different working with men. We eat together, sleep in the same tents and take baths in the same river. Plus, we had the same training,” she says.
“I understood the risks involved in this job before going for it and I hope to continue working as a game ranger for a long time. I was born in the forest and I feel it is a moral obligation to protect it and its wildlife. I love wearing this uniform,” Asseme says.
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