The fight against illegal poaching in Africa is extremely frustrating – both because of the irreparable damage that poachers cause and because most of us are powerless to do anything about it. Not so for Kinessa Johnson, however – this tattooed, gun-toting badass US Army veteran works for VETPAW, an organization that connects US Armed Forces veterans with conservation rangers in East Africa who need professional training and support.

Together with other US vets, she helps the rangers with practical concerns like marksmanship, concealment, intelligence and patrolling tactics.

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Meet Kinessa Johnson

She helps African park rangers track and capture illegal poachers

Serving for 4 years in the US Army as a weapons instructor and mechanic has given her the skills she needs to train them

“I patrol routinely with them and also assist in intelligence operations”

“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 works together with other veterans through VETPAW (Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife)

“Most of the time anyone that is in a reserve with a weapon is considered a threat and can be shot if rangers feel threatened”

“Our goal is to prevent trigger pulling through strategic movements and methods of prevention.” She says she’s not a “poacher hunter,” but a trainer”

VETPAW works primarily in East Africa