South Africa is the proud home of The Black Mambas, an initiative founded by the non-profit organisation, Transfrontier Africa, in the plight against poaching. This project is the first of its kind, as it is the first all-women anti-poaching unit. The work of these women encompasses the dire need to eradicate poaching, for the benefit of more stable ecosystems.
Initially in 2013, the six-membered Black Mambas team were deployed to prevent poaching within the Olifants West Nature Reserve near the Kruger National Park. Today, the team has grown to the extent that there are enough members spread out across the Balule area, beyond the borders of the reserve. Team members must undergo a demanding training program. This includes a three-month instructional program, classes, fitness surveillance, and survival training. They are also required to learn about animal behaviour, and how to handle dangerous animals. Rhino poaching and bush-meat poachers are particularly rampant in the Balule area. All wildlife, including predators like wild dogs and cheetahs, suffer as a result of getting caught in snare traps set out by poachers. To eradicate this, the unit searches daily for traps and campsites of poachers and destroys them using technology such as specialised cameras and drones.
Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Mambas continue their anti-poaching activities. As far as the trend of poaching efforts are concerned, Leita Mkhabela, a member of the team, stated that visitors to the reserve make poaching efforts more difficult. However, now with lockdown regulations in place, the animals are in greater danger of poachers. They have also launched a food security campaign that delivers food packages to vulnerable families in rural areas as a result of the pandemic.
“The work of these women encompasses the dire need to eradicate poaching, for the benefit of more stable ecosystems.“
The Black Mambas have gained international recognition for their work. The Irwin family’s Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors, a non-profit organisation founded by Terri Irwin and the late Steve Irwin, cover wages to the unit in order to continue their activities and train new members of the team. Towards the end of June, the unit’s base camp was severely damaged after an elephant wandered through it. Such damage unfortunately limited the activities of the unit. Subsequently, the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors founded an online fundraiser to improve the base camp of the Black Mambas
In 2015, the women won Best Conservation Practitioner at the South African Rhino Conservation Awards, and the Champions of the Earth Award from the United Nations Environment Programme.The aim of the Black Mambas’ efforts is to make the areas of patrol so dangerous to poach in, that poachers find it risky to commence any poaching activities. Their dedication to wildlife conservation has earned them prestigious accolades and international support. The Black Mambas’ fearless anti-poaching efforts are historic and are a proudly South African achievement.