By Harold Ayodo
Ms Grace Kariuki was deep inside Mt Kenya National Park on official duty when she encountered the animal, towering over her at over 11 feet and weighing about 62 tonnes. KWS ranger Grace Kariuki says women, too, can excel in the profesion thought to be a preserve of men. Photo: Martin Mukangu/Standard
KWS ranger Grace Kariuki says women, too, can excel in the profesion thought to be a preserve of men. Photo: Martin Mukangu/Standard
She had just been enlisted as a ranger by the KWS and had to make a decision between killing the rogue elephant and letting it trample her.
"I trembled as I aimed my gun towards its head, but on second thought I remembered I was trained to protect it," Kariuki says.
The thought that at 23 she was the only female ranger on the assignment did not shake her.
"It was a scary experience, but the tactics I learnt on calming a charging elephant came in handy before my counterparts joined me," Kariuki says.
She overcame near similar experiences with rhinos, hippos and baboons during her seven years as a ranger at Mt Kenya National Park.
"Every experience made me more brave as I sort of developed a way to communicate with the wildlife," she says.
Kariuki, who has since risen through the ranks to be the KWS Tsavo East National Park Warden in Charge of Education, overcame insurmountable challenges on her way up. "My other tough assignments entailed tracking down armed poachers who endangered the African elephant in 1992," Kariuki says.
Dealing with poachers was difficult, as they had advanced their tactics, which included hunting the animals at night for their lucrative tusks.