Soaked to the shoulders, Christelle Nguizi, ranger, pulls herself through another reed-filled marsh. Ten days into a patrol in the south of Lac Tele Community Reserve, she’s lead a team of five men through flooded forest and across vast wetlands by boat, canoe and, when these can’t pass through, by foot. Their mission is to survey key elephant poaching hotspots in the south of the reserve, where poachers come to supply traffickers who transport trophies and meat as far away as Kinshasa.
Hailing from the village of Mabongo-Nkoto in the flooded north of Lac Tele Community Reserve, Christelle joined the Reserve Ranger team in 2014, as part of a drive to recruit local people with knowledge of the reserve’s forests and familiarity with its people. During training by anti-poaching experts, she was one of the highest scoring rangers from across two of Congo’s protected areas in. Quickly excelling in her role, she became the first female ranger in Congo to be promoted to Unit Leader, and has produced excellent results. In 2017, for example, her unit patrolled over 1550km and carried out a key operation to arrest a notorious traffickers caught red-handed with two giant pangolin skins.
Aiming to support rangers like Christelle is one of the key roles CARPE provides as a technical support to the Congolese government in LTCR. By training, equipping and mentoring Christelle and others to become law enforcement professionals, we can help ensure that wildlife laws in Congo are properly enforced across the country’s remaining wild areas. Having a woman such as Christelle on at the forefront ensures that these laws can be enforced by a diverse team that reflects the makeup of the LTCR population and that can also enforce laws sensitively, using a depth of local knowledge and familiarity with its people.
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