A group of 26 women from Balule in the Kruger National Park walked away as Champions of the Earth. The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit received the highest accolade from the United Nations Environmental Programme in New York in September 2015.
Their success is not because of their big weapons. They operate differently and the results speak for themselves. They aim to fight the bullets that annihilate our animals not only through their patrols, but by educating the local communities about the benefits of saving our natural heritage.
The unit forms part of SANParks Environmental Monitoring Program, implemented through Biodiversity Social Projects (BSP) and funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).
According to Carlo de Kock, SANParks BSP implementation manager, the team started with six members in 2013 and has since grown to 26. Despite being unarmed, they are doing remarkably well, but the secret lies in their collaboration with armed units operating in this section.
When the unit is not spending time educating communities, they conduct foot patrols, observations, vehicle checks and road blocks as part of their visual policing strategy. If they see any suspicious activity, the team immediately informs an armed unit to take action.
“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,” says United Nations under-secretary general and UNEP executive director Achim Steiner.
While the rest of the park bears the brunt of rhino poaching, this is not the case in Balule section where the amount of rhino poaching incidents can be counted on one hand. This is not where their success ends. A number of poacher camps were dismantled and over 1000 snares removed, reducing poaching of other wildlife by 76%. The unit has already assisted successfully with the arrest of six poachers.
The Black Mamba APU is no stranger to awards. They won an award at the end of July 2015 at the Rhino Conservation Awards hosted in collaboration with the DEA and the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa for their efforts.
“The Black Mambas are such an inspiration for all of us,” says Marie-Tinka Uys, cluster manager for BSP in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere where the unit operates. Indeed they are.
Content courtesy of SANParks Times: www.sanparkstimes.co.za