Greenhouse Pioneers: Holly Budge, How Many Elephants

Holly Budge founded charity How Many Elephants in order to educate and inspire a global audience about the devastating impacts of the African Elephant ivory trade. Now the charity is aiming to highlight and celebrate the work of female rangers through World Female Ranger Day. We caught up with Holly to find out more.

Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about World Female Ranger Day – what’s your mission?

Our mission is to champion and support female rangers working on the front line of wildlife conservation.

Holly Budge stands outside with members of the Black Mambas female rangers, who wear camouflage jackets.

What drives you?

As co-founder of World Female Ranger Day and founder of the UK charity How Many Elephants, I’m driven by purpose, passion and making a difference to female rangers around the world. 

Over the last 12 months, COVID-19 has crippled tourism and funding for conservation projects within Africa and globally. The lack of tourists visiting National Parks has led to many rangers losing their jobs or having significant salary cuts. The knock-on effect of this is huge, as one ranger alone may support up to 16 family members. Additionally, reduced vigilance in tourist hotspots has left wildlife even more vulnerable to poaching. The work of rangers is paramount right now.

Having spent time on the front line with multiple all-female anti-poaching teams in Africa, it’s evident why the female ranger movement is picking up such momentum, but there is still a significant gender imbalance in environmental conservation.

World Female Ranger Day celebrates these women but will also collate gender-specific data about female anti-poaching rangers to identify their needs, find tangible solutions, and help build effective policies to contribute towards positive outcomes for female rangers and conservation as a whole.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

Summiting Everest and becoming the first woman to skydive Everest. Through my adventures I have fundraised over £400k. It was a proud moment to climb to the summit of Everest, on the North Side, in a two-person team. My climbing partner and I were fortunate to have the summit to ourselves for 30 minutes, with a blue sky and an awe-inspiring view.

What are the challenges you face?

Working in the world of conservation and in the charity sector can be emotionally challenging. There are definite highs and lows. I often feel overwhelmed by the huge challenges faced by people and wildlife and that I’m not making enough progress, but a small voice keeps whispering ‘keep going Holly, you can do this’. I keep going everyday and have a great team around me. When I see the impact of my charity work, I know I have to keep pushing and striving towards my goals. 

What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?

I have just co-founded and launched World Female Ranger Day on June 23rd though my charity, How Many Elephants. This ground-breaking global awareness day will celebrate and support female anti-poaching rangers, spotlighting Africa in its first year. They’re bold, changing the game and paving the way for women to stand alongside men at the forefront of conservation, but they need allies. This is the first time that female wildlife rangers will be recognised collectively on a global platform, to tell their stories, have access to peer support, offer and receive advice, and share knowledge. As champions of wildlife conservation, as role models, as educators and as beacons of hope, these women are not only transforming attitudes towards the role of women in Africa and beyond but are also showing the capabilities and success of females in traditionally male roles.

Where do you want to take World Female Ranger Day next?

This year we are spotlighting female rangers in Africa but going forwards, we will open it up to female rangers around the world. I’m seeking out long-term strategic partnerships with companies, associations and global citizens to expand the reach of the campaign to ultimately strengthen the support of female rangers.

What can we as individuals do to make a difference?

Step into the boots of a wildlife ranger and see what it’s like to patrol, everyday, across vast distances. A ranger covers around 20km per day. How many can you do? Join our 7-day ranger challenge at www.worldfemalerangerday.org to raise much-needed funds to support female rangers on the front-line of wildlife and resource protection in Africa. It is specially designed to be inclusive and brings together a community of people across the world, of all ages and from all walks of life, who want to walk to make a difference. Funds raised will support female ranger teams in Africa. 

We understand walking is not for everyone. There are definitely other ways you can get involved and support female rangers. You could pledge to be active in another way for that amount of time, for example, cycling, running, skipping or swimming. If you’re unable to participate in activities like these, you can still help! You can share this platform with your friends and family to encourage them to participate, or you could donate any amount of money to female anti-poaching rangers via our platform at www.worldfemalerangerday.org. You can also follow us on social media, where you can keep up to date with all things related to World Female Ranger Day and conservation, and you can share our content to raise awareness.

Can you recommend a life-changing book for our readers? 

A Reason For Hope by Jane Goodall.

How is what you are doing inspiring change in others? 

Many of the inspirational female rangers we are working with for World female Ranger Day have overcome adversity, poverty and marginalisation. Becoming a ranger has empowered them and turned them into breadwinners and property owners and has given them access to higher education and much-needed healthcare. Their often-challenging work on the front line, defending wildlife and protecting wild spaces, is making a difference. 

They are fantastic role models inspiring women around the world that anything is possible and that, with self-belief, determination and resilience, even the biggest of challenges can be overcome. It is so important for girls and women to be able to identify with ‘real’ role models. I am a firm believer that great role models do not have to have elite qualities of physical or mental advantage. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Think big, dream bigger, start small.

What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner? 

 ‘Diamonds’ by Rihanna.

Finally, who is your eco-hero? 

I have been inspired by the Black Mambas, an all-female front line anti-poaching team in South Africa. They are an initiative we have supported through How Many Elephants for several years. I earned the rare privilege of immersing myself with these women for several weeks to learn what drives and motivates these pioneering women to pursue their multifaceted roles as protectors, educators and beacons of hope. Armed only with pepper spray and handcuffs, they patrol hunting grounds of armed poachers who pose an imminent threat to many wildlife species in Africa. They are also changing attitudes towards the role of women in Africa and beyond.

Follow World Female Ranger day on social media at the following handles:

Instagram: @worldfemalerangerday

Facebook: @worldfemalerangerday

Twitter: @femalerangerday

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