Tinyiko Golele, regional ranger in the south of the Kruger National Park, is one of the few women who, with the proverbial blood, sweat and tears, made great strides in a professional field controlled by “tough men”.
Golele started conservation work at the wildlife park 23 years ago as a student and in that time progressed from ranger to country corporal, corporal, sergeant, division ranger and now regional ranger.
Dressed in her ranger uniform and with her R1 rifle in hand, it seems that this woman does not have a scared hair on her head. “There is no challenge that I will not be able to overcome.”
However, in a professional field that is dominated by men, it was not an easy road.
“I was one of four women who were employed by the Kruger National Park as rangers in 2007. The men were still skeptical about listening to a woman,” says Golele.
At the time, Golele was working as a ranger in the Woodlands division in the northern region of the game park.
“I knew I had to win the men’s trust. I have completed several training courses to show that I am worth my salt. With the knowledge I built up, I was able to prove that I was capable of doing the work that men do and over time the men respected me more.”
During these grueling courses, Golele had to survive in the forest and do rigorous physical training.
“You have to learn to function at the level of the rhino poacher – who survives for three days in the forest – with limited water and food -, walks kilometers and sleeps under a tree.
“You learn to read your environment and the animals’ behavior patterns. Sometimes a situation is such that you have to run, but mostly you have to stand your ground. You get valuable information from the wind direction and sun.”
Golele’s section won the award for the best section rangers in 2012 and she was soon after transferred to the Punda Maria area in the game park.
In January 2017, she was appointed regional warden in the north. “The responsibilities were completely different from those of a division guard. All of a sudden you are responsible for more than 500,000 ha and no longer just 77,000 ha of the wildlife park. This brought other challenges.”
Golele was appointed regional guardian in the south in February 2022.
As regional ranger, Golele manages all the divisional rangers who report to her. These rangers must patrol the wildlife park daily on foot and by car. This is to ensure the safety, security and comfort of tourists and staff and to protect the flora and fauna from intruders (thieves and poachers).
She must also have a proactive security plan ready and communicate daily with the division ranger to keep up to date with what is going on in each division.
Golele says rangers do not have fixed working hours. “You are here when the animals need you, day or night.”
Dreams come true
As a child in M’tititi (a town bordering the wildlife park), this iron woman dreamed of wearing the green uniform and boots of a ranger and contributing to the conservation of nature.
“I have a great love for the forest.”
Apart from her work, Golele is also a mother of three, husband and student. She is currently studying law and already has a BSc degree in environmental management.
She confesses that fear was one of her weaknesses when she started working in the wildlife park, “but when you are passionate about something, fear turns into bravery”.
Golele has not been attacked by an animal once in her career and according to her “you have to read and understand the animals’ behavior in the forest”.
“If you let the animal out, it will let you out.”
This story will stick with Golele the most as regional guardian:
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