Two years after the Black Mambas were formed, they remain to be the best defense against poachers in South Africa.
In 2013, a 26-member unit of mostly females called the “Black Mambas” was formed. Their aim? To protect critically endangered black rhinos living in Kruger National Park, which is roughly the size of Israel.
According to Felicia Mogakane, one of the members of the group: “people in the community and all over the world didn’t believe in us.” Skeptics didn’t think a ranger unit of mostly females could stand against big, bad poachers and help preserve the endangered black rhino.
“They were saying, what are they thinking? Women cannot do this, this is a man’s job. But we have proved them wrong.”
Indeed. Two years after the group was formed, six poachers have been arrested, five poacher campshave been shut down, and snaring has been reduced by 76% in the Balulue Private Game Reserve.
“Since we started the Black Mambas anti-poaching project, there are not poachers in our reserve because we’re doing our job so well.”
In September, the Black Mambas were honored by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) with its highest environmental prize – the Champions of the Earth Award.
“Their many successes are a result of their impressive courage and determination to make a difference in their community,” said UNEP’s Executive Director, Achim Steiner, in a statement. “The Black Mambas are an inspiration not only locally, but across the world to all those working to eliminate the scourge of the illegal wildlife trade.”
Kruger National Park has been at the epicenter of South Africa’s rhino poaching crisis for years, reports CNN. Unfortunately, rhinos are commonly tracked and killed because their horns are worth roughly $60,000 per pound. At any given time, according to the South African government, there are 12 active poacher groups in the national park.
The Black Mambas are helping protect the black rhinos by patrolling the Balulu Reserve borders. Every day, they walk up to 12 miles a day as they seek out poachers, their tracks, and snares.
Amazingly, no rhinos have been killed on their watch.
Despite their impressive accomplishment(s), the women aren’t paid much for their work. Their salaries are subsidized by SANParks, which are mainly funded through donations.
However, they’re clearly in it for the reward of protecting an endangered species.
“We say this to the world: let the animals live,” says Mogakane. “They deserve to live. So we Black Mambas, we say zero-tolerance to rhino poaching and wildlife threats.”
If you’d like to support the ranger unit, you can fund their efforts by visiting the official Black Mamba website.
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