The Black Mambas: A Force to Be Reckoned With


In the South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga lies the Kruger National Park, spanning 19,485 square kilometers. It is perhaps one of the most famous parks in the world and it maintains a high density of wildlife including the big five: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos. It is perhaps one of the very few locations that house such a myriad of species, which also include vultures, storks and eagles.

Unfortunately due to man’s arrogance, we have come to believe that the world is anthropocentric, meaning that we as a species are the sole heir to this Earth and all other animals are merely a means to an end. That in turn leads to greed and malice in our actions; this so called species that is meant to have dominion over nature has decided to destroy it for profit.

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In many countries with dense wildlife populations, there arises the issue of poaching. Poaching is when man (the ‘superior’ species) decides that a rhino’s horn or an elephant’s tusks or the skin of a leopard are lucrative and decides to hunt the animals in order to extract what is profitable and discard the rest. This has led to the endangerment of many species around the world, too many of which are undergoing extinction (with some predicted to go completely extinct within our lifetimes).

Fortunately for nature and future generations, this epidemic is not going unchallenged. There are many groups all over the world that have decided to stand up for animals and the environment in an attempt to save what is left and protect future generations.

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One of these groups is called The Black Mambas; stationed in the Balule Private Game Reserve on an area spanning 100,000 acres on the western border of Kruger National Park. The Black Mambas are the world’s first all-female anti-poaching unit of around 35 women tasked with protecting endangered rhinos and elephants, as well as the rest of the animals on the reserve.

“What we are doing here is important and amazing. They say it’s a man’s job, but we are doing it.” - Felicia Mogahane (Member of The Black Mambas)

These are not women conscripted by the military nor are they forced to do this job for the money. These are women who have made it their mission to protect the environment and wildlife. Most of them have dreamed of doing so since childhood and those dreams came into fruition in 2013 with the establishment of The Black Mambas.

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The women receive a three-month training course in which they learn about the wildlife on the reserve and how to deal with the animals. They are also trained in fitness and survival, with a two-week mandatory period in their training where they must survive all on their own in the wilderness; learning to make fire, shelter and eat from the plants in the wild.

The Black Mambas are unarmed and patrol the park at all times, and it is often rigorous and dangerous. Once they are aware of a threat - whether it is a poacher setting up camp, tampering with the fences or any other perceived act of aggression towards the animals - they call in for backup and the threat is abated.

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In a video made by National Geographic, a member of the Black Mambas called Carol Khosa says: “This war on poaching is bigger than guns and bullets; we are going to the schools to teach children about the environment.” Since the group’s establishment, they have seen the rates of snaring and poaching decrease by a staggering 76 percent; so much so that many other reserves and parks are looking into replicating their model.

Image from Helping Rhinos

These are not privileged women, nor are they women who seem to stand out in any way at first glance. Often heroes do not stand out as the movies will have us believe; these are all mothers, daughters and sisters, many of whom are primary breadwinners for large families. Rather than get a job at a call center or something safe, they have decided to provide for their families while at the same time following their passion for the environment.

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