In celebration of Women’s Day, we salute the women combating poaching in the Greater Kruger National Park. With a majority of female team members, the Black Mamba anti-poaching unit is the first of its kind in the world.
Strong, courageous and determined are some of the words to describe the women in the Black Mamba anti-poaching unit. Despite facing initial scepticism, these female counter-poaching members are striking a blow for conservation. “With a 75% drop in snare poaching since their deployment, it is safe to say this approach is working,” says the group’s mastermind, Craig Spencer, an ecologist and head warden of Balule Nature Reserve, a protected area that forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park.
The Mambas’ main job is to be seen patrolling the fence. They set up listening posts to hear vehicles, voices and gunshots, all signs of poaching. They also patrol the reserve on foot, calling in the armed guards whenever they find something. Their physical presence is a deterrent to poachers and in the course of their duties they have identified and destroyed 10 poachers’ camps and three bush meat kitchens.
The concept behind the Black Mamba unit is to address the huge economic and cultural divide between the protected area and local communities. The recruits are from local communities and they play an important role in spreading the conservation message.
The success of this task force has seen them win the Best Conservation Practitioner at the Rhino Conservation Awards held in JHB last month. More importantly they are motivating, inspiring and showing other women in the community they can make a difference and protect their natural heritage.
The unit has received substantial support from HI-TEC Sports founder Frank van Wezel, who committed to personally assisting the group with a substantial donation towards fences, gear and costly equipment. It also kickstarted HI-TEC’s global anti-poaching awareness campaign. “With more than 13 million pairs of shoes sold in more than 100 countries under the HI-TEC and Magnum brands annually, what better vehicle to reach the world than an anti-poaching swing tag on each pair sold,” says Van Wezel.
As part of their support for conservation, HI-TEC South Africa partners with Rim of Africa and The Cape Leopard Trust. “We are extremely proud to be part of a team so committed to saving our wildlife,” says Jo Esterhuizen of Hi-Tec Sports. “I hope our founder’s actions will inspire others to lead by the same example.”
United Nations Award
On 7 September 2015 it was announced that the Black Mambas have been awarded the UN’s Champions of the Earth award in the Inspiration and Action Category. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) paid tribute to the “rapid and impressive impact the Black Mambas have made in combatting poaching”.
“Community-led initiatives are crucial to combatting the illegal trade in wildlife, and the Black Mambas highlight how effective local knowledge and commitment can be,” said UNEP executive director Achim Steiner.