Meet The Awesome Women Protecting South Africa’s Rhinos

“We are the Black Mambas anti-poaching unit! We are the champions for rhinos!” they chant.

The Black Mambas from South Africa are the world’s first majority-female anti-poaching unit, and they have just received the Innovation in Conservation award from the UK charity Helping Rhinos in recognition of the awesome success they are having. Since they were formed in 2013, there has been a 76 percent reduction in snaring and poaching incidents in Balule nature reserve, an area of around 40,000 hectares, or roughly the size of Israel, situated in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

The 26 Mambas all come from poor villages on the border of the park. They receive six weeks of paramilitary training and wildlife education, and then begin their work alongside 29 armed guards and an intelligence team, all collaborating to stop the poachers. The Mambas patrol the reserve on foot, walking up to 12 miles a day, as they check fences for any sign of disturbance, and seek out any sign of poachers, their tracks and snares. They carry no weapons.

Winning The War On Poaching

“The Black Mambas are winning the war on poaching,” says Siphiwe Sithole, a Black Mamba who traveled to London to receive the prestigious Innovation in Conservation award. “We have absolutely zero tolerance for rhino poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. The poachers will fall – but it will not be with guns and bullets.”

No rhino, they say, has been killed on their watch, but instead, they have removed thousands of snares designed to catch animals, destroyed 10 poacher camps and three bushmeat kitchens and have seen the arrest of six poachers.

In fact, they have been so successful that South Africa’s national parks authority is looking at adopting the same model for future teams.

rhino-in-Kruger-Park,-South-Africa
Photo Credit: By Esculapio – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4206110

The Rhino Problem

As The Guardian reports:

“South Africa has the largest population of rhinos in the world, estimated at 19,000. The country has seen a huge spike in the rate of rhino poaching in recent years, with many of these incidents taking place in protected national parks like Kruger. Last year 1,175 rhinos were poached  – the first year that numbers had not risen since the alarming trend began after 2007, when just 13 were killed.”

South Africa’s rhino poaching crisis has been especially rampant in Kruger National Park, where hundreds of rhinos have been killed for their horns, which can fetch as much as $60,000 a pound, more than diamonds or gold. This is pretty ironic, given that the substance is basically no different from human fingernails. Rhino horn is especially popular in Vietnam and China, where it is ground down and used as a traditional medicinal cure.

Let The Animals Live!

But things are looking up for the rhinos, now that the Black Mambas are in place.

“We say this to the world: let the animals live,” says Felicia Mogakane, one of the group’s members. “They deserve to live. So we Black Mambas, we say zero-tolerance to rhino poaching and wildlife threats.”

At the same time as protecting the rhinos, the Mambas are also providing a powerful role model, showing that local people can get jobs and education in the reserves. They feel strongly that working with local communities and showing them an avenue of hope for the future is how to win the war on poaching, rather than with guns.

As part of this approach, the Mambas have also started a program called Bush Babies at 10 local schools. “Before we started it people were not aware,” Sithole says. “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.”

“Before we joined this group, people in the community and all over the world didn’t believe in us,” says Mogakane

“They were all saying, what are they thinking? Women cannot do this, this is a man’s job. But we have proved them wrong.”

 

92 comments

Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 years ago

Marija. This is well organized. They are scouting teams who take care of snares and spot poaching activities. If they spot them they call in the armed rangers on radios. So basically these women are the advance team. They have plenty of armed backup

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Michele Rosenbaum
m r2 years ago

go black mambas!!!!! thank you for the aricle

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Dianne D.
Dianne D2 years ago

What wonderful human beings.

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Andre Vosloo
Andre Vosloo2 years ago

Fabulous.. a way to go ladies!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago

Never send a man to do a woman's job.

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Sierra B.
Sierra B2 years ago

This is awesome

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Karen Swenson
Karen Swenson2 years ago

@Marija K----you are right about being able to protect yourself and I have no issue with that. The article reminded me of the Nuns who go into extremely dangerous places to rescue sex slaves with no Weapons. Why these Women are not allowed to carry weapons the article did not elaborate on. My fervent hope is that they will not be killed or injured. It would be too horrible if they are waiting for the first fatality before they issue them protection. I should have made it more clear that I was just speculating on what the thinking may be, as to why they are unarmed. I can tell you I wouldn't want to be put in that position with no way to protect myself that is for sure! I doubt they would send a group of men out to do that job without any way to protect themselves. It would be like going to war with only one side holding all the weapons. Think of how Brave these women are.

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FOTEINI HORBOU
foteini CHORMPOU2 years ago

ALL MAMBAS ARE GREAT!

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Beverly S.
Beverly S2 years ago

How very cool.
I will put them on my post-lottery-win donation list!

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