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Woman of Hope for the Dawna Mountain Range

During the rainy season you can smell the lush green trees during the car ride on the twisty and rain-slick road up to the Service Center of Mae Wong National Park, a national park in both Nakhon Sawan and Kamphaeng Phet provinces.


Once you arrive at the Park you can see the SMART Patrol center to your right. There, the only female ranger in the Park is running errands.


Soypetch (Soy) Musitachart has worked in Mae Wong National Park for 12 years. 
 
Soy’s hometown is in Hat Yai, Songkhla province. Living close to conservation areas themselves, Soy’s parents inspired her to become interested in protecting and conserving natural resources. One year after completing her studies at Maejo University, Soy moved to Mae Wong when the opportunity arose to help with paperwork in the Park’s office. Her first hiking trip was to Mokoju mountain peak. “I started to really like hiking in the forest,” Soy says. Since that trip, Soy has become the first female ranger in the Park.
 

 
When asked about the difficulties of being a female ranger, Soy is confident to say, “being female is not an obstacle for me.” During the hikes, the job of a ranger includes, but not limited to, identifying footprints, taking photos, setting camera traps, knowing when danger is approaching, and knowing how to protect one self - all these while carrying heavy bags. 
 
“Many people ask me, “Are you a hindrance to the men during the hikes? Do you slow them down?” I tell them no because I know how to survive in the forest. There are no instances where I ask them for help. We know our own roles and don’t distinguish ourselves based on sex,” Soy says. 
Soy and fellow rangers attend training with experts organized by WWF-Thailand to develop confidence in their survival and technical skills. Examples of such training include self defense, first aid, the usage of GPS and data forms, map-reading, and research techniques. “With WWF’s support, now all Mae Wong National Park staff have basic knowledge about safety and patrolling,” Soy says. She feels a lot safer after learning self defense - how to listen for signs of danger in the forest, how to ambush and watch over herself, how to arrest people in a slope setting, and knowing where to stand at what location that would be at an advantage during an arrest. 

Before WWF-Thailand involvement, rangers had limited opportunities for learning. Wicha Palarak, the ranger leader of a patrol unit, recounts that since starting his career at the Department of National Park in 1995, he didn’t collect data until WWF support. “In the past, each unit also didn’t patrol the whole area of Mae Wong. We hiked wherever we liked. Now we collect data and walk in a systematic format so that each unit covers 50,000 rai to cover all 562,500 rai of Mae Wong,” he says. 
 Rangers like Soy and the ranger leader not only attend practical training about their job as a ranger, but they also now have a variety of opportunities for self-confidence improvement by interacting with the local and international communities. Soy attends youth camps at international schools with WWF. “My English is very much at the beginner level, but WWF staff encouraged me to talk to international students,” says Soy. With her eyes sparkling, Soy recounts she had never interacted with students in English before attending these youth camps. Now Soy is more confident in expressing herself and talking to the community and children. 
Another event that increased Soy’s confidence was the World Ranger Congress at Nepal. Soy and a ranger from Khlong Lan National Park were funded and supported by WWF to gain international exposure, an experience of a lifetime. The conference invites rangers from all around the world to exchange knowledge about technology and ranging techniques. “I told myself that I would have to be able to come back in one piece,” Soy says. Since Soy had never been outside of Thailand before the trip, she recounts why this experience is important to her, “I became more confident and made new friends who are from different countries - they also learned Thai from me.” 

With a promising smile, Soy hopes that more women become rangers. She imagines that having more women as government officials will inspire women to become rangers. 
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