The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit is a majority women group of rangers, founded by Transfrontier Africa to protect the Olifants West Region of Balule Nature Reserve, part of Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa. The area where the Black Mambas operate is a free-range savannah ecosystem with open borders to the Kruger National Park. The highly endangered Black Rhino and also the endangered white rhino are strongly represented in the area.
Since the unit went into operation in 2013, the number of rhinos lost to poaching has plummeted, snaring and illegal bush-meat incidents have been reduced by 75 per cent, and nine poacher incursions have been detected, leading to the arrests of the offenders. The 26 unarmed members of the unit conduct foot-patrols, observations, vehicle checks and, road blocks, as well as educating their peers on the importance of conservation and gathering intelligence from their communities.
Restoring dignity and self-worth, and empowering communities to play their part, is a crucial component of efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade across the globe, and the Black Mambas are an outstanding example of success. Their brave actions are sending the message to others in South Africa and beyond that communities themselves can prevent the illegal wildlife trade—which threatens not only iconic species such as rhino and elephants, but puts money in the hands of criminal gangs, thus increasing insecurity, and threatens livelihoods.
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