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Girls rule the world: women in guiding and nature

This blog was written by Bushwise student Kerry Ross, as she investigated the powerful role women and females play in conservation and in nature. While on course Kerry has seen the strength of her fellow female students, and the strength of female animals, come to light in many ways.

Words by Kerry Ross, images by Louise Pavid

5 min read

Women guides hitting the target

Women are a growing demographic in the field guiding industry. In this image, one of our female field guide students smiles while she's leading a practice game drive.

I had the privilege of being elected camp manager throughout a very busy week of ARH (Advanced Rifle Handling). Not only did I pick up my first rifle, but I also got to watch every other student go through the training as well. 

What a fantastic experience and learning opportunity for all. A massive shout out in particular to every young woman who picked up a rifle for the first time, brushed off their fears – and the weight of the mighty .375 – and did brilliantly. 

Throughout my life, I have heard the stigma that women belong in a certain place, namely “the kitchen while bringing up the kids.” However as a feminist and an advocate for young women the world over, I firmly believe that a woman belongs, well, wherever the heck she wants to be. 

Growing in skills and confidence

Nothing proves that theory to me more than simply living with the other young women on this campus. I have watched them over the last three months grow into independent, confident people who are all just trying to be the best versions of themselves while discovering their various niches in this wild industry. 

I know that by the end of this jam-packed course, they will go on to reach great heights and realise they can do whatever they dream and be whoever they want to be. It fills me with great pride, the likes of which I cannot remember feeling for a very long time. 

We have been super blessed to be able to go on a number of game drives over the course of the last three semesters. As the course has gone on, I have begun to look deeper into the ever varied roles of women in the animal kingdom, and ladies – between you and me – I think nature is answering that age old question for us all. 

Female leaders in nature

A Bushwise student, one of our women field guide trainees, pauses to look at a giraffe while on game drive.

From the mighty matriarch African elephant and the mother leopard who raises her cubs on her own to the female soldiers in the Matabele ant tribe, females in nature are so fierce and nurturing!

On my journey into researching females’ role in nature, I must be honest I got totally and completely sidetracked by the smallest of these women, the humble ant – in particular the warriors of the Matabele ant tribe. 

Truthfully before I came to Bushwise, I was not the biggest fan of this little creature. In the city, the struggle was very real – how on earth do these tiny six-legged animals get into every crack in the house and slowly but surely become nothing more than a nuisance. The daily battle was real and in the end, I think the score was Kerry – 0 : Every ant species – I lost count after 35. 

Since really diving into ecology and the importance of every living creature in our ecosystems, I began to look at them very differently. They have now crept into my heart, and now when they come to my room in search of a treat, I will just gently sweep them out. 

Ladies of the mighty Matabele ants

Matabele ants after raiding a termite mound, carrying back their quarry.

Image by Judy Gallagher on Flickr

When I started reading about this exceptional army of Matabele ants, I simply couldn’t stop. I hope after this blog that other people will also get a different perspective about ants. 

The Matabele ants were very appropriately named after the Matabele tribe, an African tribe of formidable warriors, who swept through South and Central Africa  between 1836 and 1896  destroying everything in their path. 

The Latin name for these ants is Megaponera analis – which translates directly to “lawless wicked ones”, but nothing could be further from the truth. Their colonies can grow in excess of 20 million members and their mission in life is to attack termite colonies, eat the inhabitants, and march back with the heads of their enemies clasped in their pincers. 

Having witnessed this raid for myself, I can tell you it is a sight to behold. If you take a closer look at each individual Matabele soldier in a line of ants, you’ll notice they are different sizes. This enables them to fit in different size holes in the termite mound, another very clever design by nature. 

A female scout goes out to find a food source. Once she has located a suitable mound, she lays a pheromone trail back to head-quarters and then a column of soldiers follows the trail to the termite mound. Once every soldier is present, they all rush forward and overwhelm their prey. Although their victory is almost a guarantee, there will be casualties and injuries. These women are the epitome of team players, wounded soldiers are taken back to headquarters where clinging termites are removed and mutilated limbs are amputated. So don’t be surprised if you notice a couple of soldiers with missing limbs when you stop at an army of Matabele ants! 

The author of this blog, Kerry, smiles at the camera. She's a Bushwise student training to become an excellent example of women in guiding!

How awesome is nature and how amazing are ants! Next time you see a colony of ants, consider the mighty females of the Matabele ant tribe and let them pass peacefully. They truly are amazing little creatures, and I certainly have gained a new respect for every single one of them. They teach us the value of hard work but most importantly the value of teamwork!

To all the beautiful women reading this, may you be as revered as the mighty African elephant, as nurturing as the mother leopard and as fierce as the mighty females of the Matabele ant tribe. 

From elephants to ants, learn about it all on a Bushwise course. Apply for free today and go wild in your career. 




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