Rhino poaching is a scourge upon the earth that seems to flourish no matter what, but don’t let this put you off your safaris to South Africa’s best wildlife spots. There’s good news too.
Every day, all over Africa small strides are being taken to defend these animals and other endangered species. One of these is a move by British Airways and 39 other international airlines banning the movement of Big Five trophies on their flights.
Another one is a tireless initiative powered almost entirely by women.
Unarmed and Dangerous
The Black Mambas are an anti-poaching unit operating in the Greater Kruger area. Like their namesake they are patient, stealthy, and good at what they do. The only difference is that they don’t strike to kill. Their aim is to save rhinos, not kill poachers and they are totally unarmed.
This is a shocking tactic when one considers that poachers will stop at nothing to get their prize, but it’s working.
The Origins of the Black Mambas
This unit of 33 women and 2 men was set up in 2013 to protect the Olifants West region of Balule Nature Reserve in the Kruger National Park. The principle was simple. African women have a natural inclination for patience, endurance and determination born of hardship.They also have a non-threatening demeanour, perfect for behind-the-scenes work.
At first, they were the subject of much ridicule from their male-dominated community. Within a year, they were invited to extend their activities into other areas of the park.
Today they are considered heroines.
The Black Mamba’s brief is simple (although it could be viewed as a little sexist) – tidy up!
One by One…
Every day the Black Mambas set out into the wilderness on foot. Not only do they face the danger of coming across bands of heavily armed poachers, they are also at risk of injury or death from the very animals they are trying to protect. Eight hours of patrolling through the bush in the blazing African heat is no figurative walk in the park either.
Their motivation is simple – If we don’t stop the poaching, who will?
Their daily clean ups make their area undesirable, difficult and less profitable for poachers. When they find a snare, they dismantle it. If they come across a poachers’ camp, they report it. If they encounter poachers, the big guns are just a radio call away.
Heavily armed anti-poaching troops remain on stand-by and can respond to a call from the Black Mambas in an instant with helicopters, dogs, and the necessary force. The on-the-ground approach of the Black Mambas helps to limit mobilising these expensive anti-poaching initiatives unnecessarily.
The ongoing efforts of these young women in the face of so much risk are truly admirable. Yet, they stick to it, and slowly the incidences of poaching in Balule are being reduced. Without the use of their snares and with the constant threat of discovery, this area is becoming a pain to poach.
As their successes grow. The Black Mambas have branched out into other areas.
Conservation Begins at Home
The Black Mambas aspire to be a role model in their communities. They are tired of the moral decay that poaching has brought to rural settlements in the area and are taking steps to erode it.
The ladies visit schools and address gatherings about the importance of conservation, the delicate balance of nature and how everyone can help in some small way. It is their aim to ensure that everyone they come across begins to see conservation as a greater source of profit than poaching.
Their Bush Babies initiative takes young learners into the park during school holidays to learn more about the bush and all its creatures. By learning to admire the birds and animals of Africa, the next generation develops a deeper connection with them and a desire to see them thrive.
Bush Babies has since been introduced to 10 schools surrounding the Kruger National Park and does much to convince children that wildlife is not just for wealthy tourists – it’s part of our African heritage.
Do Your Bit for Conservation
When you book accommodation at Kruger National Park or any of the conservation areas in South Africa, a portion of your payment goes towards conservation.
Don’t delay. Plan your safari, do your Mango Airlines bookings and get in on the action.