U.S. Army veteran Kinessa Johnson, who served in Afghanistan for four years, has gone from protecting humans to protecting animals. She is the latest addition to VETPAW (Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife), an organisation that enlists retired veterans to hunt down wildlife poachers in East Africa.
According to the African Wildlife Foundation, rhinos, elephants, and other types of wildlife on the continent may become extinct within our lifetime. Which is why the work that Johnson and her fellow veterans are doing is immensely important. The team arrived in Tanzania on 26 March, and quickly got down to work: “We’re going over there to do some anti-poaching, kill some bad guys, and do some good,” Johnson said.
Johnson, a former sharp-shooter from Western Washington, works as a technical advisor to anti-poaching rangers. Her job is to train park rangers and patrol with them to provide support. The training will include marksmanship, field medicine, and counter-intelligence. “Our intention is not to harm anyone; we’re here to train park rangers so they can track and detain poachers and ultimately prevent poaching,” she said. “So I patrol routinely with them and also assist in intelligence operations.”