Meet The Black Mambas—The First-Ever All-Women Anti-Poaching Unit In South Africa

Alisha Fernandes , 19 Feb 2019

#IfTreesCouldTalk is a blog series that aims to highlight one aspect of environmental impact, wildlife conservation and other issues that need to be spoken about from the natural world and our impact on it. The idea was simple. We just believe that if Mother Nature had a voice, there would be a lot she would have to say about the state of the world today and what we can do to help. This is just our effort to give her a voice. 

Fun fact: The Black Mamba is a snake that only attacks humans if it is threatened, but a bite from the highly venomous snake can result in death in not more than 10 minutes if an anti-venom isn’t administered straight away.

Fun Fact #2: Black Mambas also happens to be the name adopted by an all women poaching unit that works out of the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Yes, you read right. It does say ALL WOMEN.

Mamba Jumbo

Back in 2013, the Transfrontier Africa NPC founded a group called the Black Mambas whose primary aim was to protect the Olifants West Region of Balule Nature Reserve. And the next year, they swiftly expanded their reach and jurisdiction to include all boundaries of the Balule Nature Reserve, a part of the Greater Kruger National Park.

The idea behind creating this group has its basis in a criminological theory that was proposed in 1982 by two social scientists, James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. They simply called it the “Broken Window” theory and it states that visible signs of criminal activity if left alone and not tackled, will over time lead to a shift in people’s attitudes as they get desensitised to this behaviour and result in more crime.

These women are passionate conservationists and work specifically with rhino and elephant conservation but also to protect all other wildlife as well. Through their effort, they strive to make it almost impossible and really unprofitable for poachers to function in their region of control. What’s more, is that they patrol and manage to do all of this unarmed! But these women, who are mothers, wives and daughters, have to go through extensive training that includes physical exercise, learning surveillance techniques and how to use teamwork to their advantage.

But as anyone in conservation will tell you, on ground policing can only get you so far. The rest is only accomplished through education and awareness.

Enter: The Bush Babies

With this goal of education and awareness in mind, The Bush Babies Environmental Education Program was born in 2015. With things like poaching and conservation, the first step is to create a community that functions on the philosophy of protection of our natural habitats and species. And the best time to start is when they are young so that you are already targeting the future leaders of the world. As per their website, they are now 2000 babies strong!

Considering much of the work in this field and countless more are considered “a man’s work”, it’s a glorious thing to witness the thriving success of the Black Mambas. And considering this is a non-profit organisation, these women are also paid wages that allow them to have a consistent income and pride that comes with being able to provide for themselves. And all this was due to the efforts of Craig Spencer who founded the organisation. Of the Mambas, in an article in National Geographic, Craig said, “I often wonder if I need the Mambas or they need me? I’ve lost my heart and soul to them. They are my reason for sticking around. It used to be the elephants and the rhinos, but now, it’s these women.”

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