Kinessa Johnson, a Washington state native and Army Veteran who served one tour in Afghanistan has made her way to Africa. Decorated in tattoos cover her neck and arms Kinessa strikes a pose with an assault riffle. Working for the ‘Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife’ VETPAW, she is taking her training across the globe to “…to train park rangers so they can track and detain poachers and ultimately prevent poaching.”
The majority of VETPAW members have served in Afghanistan or Iraq.
With success already under her belt, the team has noted that in the early days of the campaign have already nabbed some poachers and confiscated weaponry used for illegal poaching. Kinessa works in African parks patrolling with park rangers searching for illegal activity involving the wildlife and supporting intelligence operations. She insists that she is not a ‘poacher hunter’ but rather that she catches and detains them.
After a controversial video was released in 2015, VETPAW was asked to leave Tanzania. They are now set to protect Rhinos in South Africa.
Along with VETPAW, Johnson has also received harsh criticism. Many of her Facebook and Instagram photos show Johnson holding a variety of assault rifles. After being accused countless times, Johnson has publically made the claim that she is not a “poacher killer” and has no intention of killing any potential poacher, only detaining them.
Johnson was quoted saying,
‘Our goal is to prevent trigger pulling through strategic movements and methods of prevention.’
Johnson has also publicly slammed many on Facebook that questions her very abilities and motives.
Many on Facebook have specifically attacked her abilities because of her gender.
‘I must say that I find it extremely disheartening to see so many bashing my ability based on my gender,’ she wrote.
‘I work with so many awesome and capable female park rangers here in Africa, who put their lives on the line every day right next to male park rangers, and I think these comments are also disrespectful to these amazing women.’