While the rest of South Africa records an increase in the number of rhino deaths, the Balule reserve has achieved a 76% reduction in poaching since 2013 thanks to the Black Mambas patrol of local women. Their success has once again earned them another international award.
For these women, their success in reducing rhino deaths and breaking down the barriers between poor communities and elite wildlife reserves that is their most powerful weapon in the war on poaching, and has seen them pick up their second international conservation award this week.
Sithole and Felicia Mogakane are members of South Africa’s Black Mambas, the world’s first all-female anti-poaching unit that has captured the public’s imagination. The two women have travelled to London to receive the inaugural Innovation in Conservation award from UK charity, Helping Rhinos. The award recognises projects “with an inspiring and innovative approach” that have shown positive results in protecting rhino populations.
Since forming in 2013, the Black Mambas have seen a 76% reduction in snaring and poaching incidents within their area of operation in Balule nature reserve in the country’s north-east. As well as the famous big five of rhino, lion, elephant, buffalo and leopard, the 40,000-hectare private reserve is home to zebra, antelope, wildebeest, cheetah, giraffe, hippos, crocodiles and hundreds of species of trees and birds.
In the six months before the Mambas were set up, 16 rhinos were lost in Balule, one of several private reserves bordering Kruger national park. In the 12 months after, fatalities were reduced to just three rhinos.
Thousands of snares to catch animals for bushmeat have been removed, 10 poacher camps destroyed, three bushmeat kitchens put out of action and six poachers arrested. Such is their success that South Africa’s national parks authority is looking at replicating the model, with plans for another team of six female rangers.
Last year the Mambas won the Champions of the Earth prize, the UN’s highest environmental honour, awarded to those showing outstanding courage in fighting the illegal wildlife trade at community level.
In an interview with the guardian uk, Mogakane, on behalf of her teammates, expressed her joy at receiving the award especially as not so long women working to protect wildlife was a rarity.
Source: The Guardian UK