Anety is a wildlife police officer working in Zambia. She protects more than one hundred different species, including elephants, lions, and leopards, that call her park home. One of just three female wildlife rangers in her park, Anety works in a dangerous and under-resourced profession.
Q: How did you end up becoming a wildlife police officer?
A: I grew up loving animals. I like wildlife because we don’t quarrel. When I’m out there in the bush, we are all friends. I love my job a lot. I really do. I’ve stayed in the bush since 2004.
To be a wildlife police officer in Zambia you have to undergo paramilitary training. When we were recruited, I think we were 16 ladies, among 47 men. The training was so tough. We only managed to graduate, four of us ladies out of 16. Twelve left on the way, but I managed. What I wanted was just to finish and go out in the world.
Q: In terms of equipment, what do you need or need more of to do your job?
A: When it comes to equipment, it’s terrible. You have one tent for the whole year to use. It gets torn.
It’s on very rare occasion that we receive uniforms. Just the one pair. That one pair, you don’t even have a second one. When you are at the office, you use it. When you go out in the field, you use it, so it doesn’t even last.
I would say if you have protective clothing, it motivates you. Because during the rainy season, you get soaked. Sometimes you catch pneumonia. Because it’s really cold at night and the tent is leaking. You have nowhere to sleep, and everything you have is soaked.
It’s really challenging. But it’s my passion. When you really want to do something, you do it.
Q: Tell us about other challenges you face as a wildlife police officer.
A: I have one daughter. She’s four years old, and her name is Brenda. I keep three other nieces of mine from my two late sisters, and I’m keeping my cousin as well. She is taking care of them right now. She has a daughter as well. So, we are a family of seven, and I’m looking after six people.
The father of my daughter passed on in 2014 as well, so I’m all by myself trying to make ends meet.
I’m out of the home 20 days in a month. I’m not there. I started leaving my daughter when she was only eight months old. At first it was so hard. But if I stay home, then they’ll have nothing on the table. I just had to sacrifice because I had no other option.
Q: Do your girls want to follow in your footsteps?
A: Not everyone. Only one—my niece—she loves it. She’s now turning seven. She always tells me “I want to be like you.” Every time I knock off, I don’t have to untie my shoes. She just comes over and she says, “I’ll do this for you. I’ll polish your boots. I want to be a soldier.”
In our camp, we have a school. I started an education program about the goodness of being in conservation. So sometimes I do small programs where I take the school children out to enjoy seeing wildlife in my park. I want to be a role model for my children and the children in the camp.
Q: With all these challenges, why do you continue to do this job?
A: I think it’s the respect that I get from the public. People used to think it’s a job for men. Then I went there, and they couldn’t believe that a girl could do it.
When I started this everybody was like “She will fail, she will fail.” I wanted to prove to them that I would do it. So even when things got tough, I thought, “No. Why should people laugh at me?” That’s my mission. That’s my aim even now.
It makes me happy. It really makes me happy to continue doing my job.