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In Celebration of International Women's Day, ANAMAR Commends The ‘Black Mamba’ (an All-Female Unit Working in South Africa) For Their Successful Anti-Poaching Efforts


Getting to Know the Black Mamba

The Black Mamba is a private anti-poaching unit (APU) founded in 2013 by Transfrontier Africa with initial duties to protect the Olifants West Region of South Africa’s Balule Nature Reserve. It has since expanded to protect all of the Balule Reserve. The Balule Reserve is on the western side of South Africa’s famous Kruger National Park, a park that is home to many protected species such as rhinos, elephants, lions, zebras, pangolin, buffalo, giraffe, hippos, cheetahs, leopards, crocodiles, and many more. The Mamba consists of 26 women from disadvantaged communities bordering the park. They have undergone 6 weeks of paramilitary training and wildlife education and now work alongside 23 armed guards and an intelligence team to protect 40,000 hectares (approx. 154 sq. miles). Typical tasks include walking several miles a day patrolling perimeter fences, searching for signs of poachers, reporting animals that have been poached, searching for and dismantling traps, installing wildlife tracking collars, and helping care for animals that have been injured or were separated from their mothers. Typical working conditions can be physically demanding, with temperatures typically reaching upwards of 100°F. The Mambas also work among potentially dangerous wildlife and hostile poachers. Their job doesn’t stop when they leave the Reserve Mambas also conduct the Bush Baby Environmental Education Program, an environmental awareness program that is currently integrated into several local primary schools that reach several hundred students. The program’s objectives are to educate the youth about their surrounding ecology and give them a better understanding of conservation by raising awareness of their environment and instilling better environmental problem-solving skills that will serve them well as environmental caretakers for South Africa’s future.


The Black Mamba Success Story

Six months prior to formation of the Black Mambas APU, 16 rhino fatalities occurred within the Balule Reserve. Within 12 months after the Mambas began patrolling, the reserve had only three rhino fatalities. Since this APU formed, the Balule Reserve has reported a 76% decline in snaring and poisoning activities. The success of the Black Mambas has not gone unnoticed. Last year the Mambas received the Champions of the Earth award , the UN’s highest environmental honor awarded to those showing tremendous courage in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade. This year the Mambas will receive the Innovation of Conservation award from the UK charity Helping Rhinos. The award is given in recognition of the Mambas’ “inspiring and innovative approach” that has yielded such positive results in protecting the rhino. The UN and Helping Rhinos aren’t the only organizations to recognize the Mambas’ success. South Africa’s National Parks Authority is planning to replicate the Black Mamba model, with plans for another team of six female rangers.


Why Has Poaching Become a Problem?

In an article with The Guardian, Felicia Mogakane, a Mamba member, states:  

“Firstly, poaching was for bushmeat. People say ‘we don’t have jobs so we must go inside the reserve and poach some impala so that we can sell it and get some money to buy groceries for our family’. In most cases now, people come in for rhinos, because they want to get rich, drive some fancy cars, and build a nice house.”

In the same article with The Guardian, Siphiwe Sithole, another Black Mamba member, states:

“Some of the people who are doing these things went to school with us … you come to ask yourself ‘why are they doing this? Why has this person turned his mind to become a killer? To destroy our nature?’ It feels very sad and what they are doing is very wrong.”

“Before we started it, people were not aware, but now we teach the kids and they go back home and send the messages to their parents. They might know now that if they continue to do this we might end up without any rhino.”


How Can We Help?

Each Mamba receives a salary but also relies on donations from organizations such as Sponsor a Black Mamba for compensation. There are also other donation campaigns as well as several sponsors and partners that aid in keeping proper funds available for the Black Mambas to continue having necessary equipment in the field and enough funds to continue offering their environmental education courses to the youth. Giving money is one of many ways to support these trail-blazing women with their efforts in conservation. Perhaps simply sharing their inspirational story may give rise to other courageous conservation efforts.




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