Black Mamba anti-poaching unit. Photo: Facebook
This rhino protection squad is unique in the anti-poaching industry. It is the only unit guarding Africa’s nature reserves operated entirely by women.
The Black Mamba anti-poaching unit patrols the Balule Nature Reserve in South Africa, where rhinos are under serious threat.
Craig Spencer, the reserve’s head warden, told The Guardian rhino horn sells for more than cocaine and the lucrative nature of the poaching industry can turn local communities against his reserve.
“The problem really is that there is this perception that has developed in the communities outside the park, they see a uniformed official and think we are the sheriff of Nottingham, they see the poachers as Robin Hood,” he said.
That’s where the Black Mamba women come in. Recruiting the high school graduates was partly a tactic to engage, and win the trust of, the local communities they come from.
After undergoing tracking and combat training, they patrol the reserve unarmed in second-hand military uniforms.
In addition to fighting for the rhinos, the also protect other endangered species such as giraffes, wild dogs and cheetahs.
Black Mamba game guard Leitah Michabela told The Guardian “Lots of people said, how can you work in the bush when you are a lady? But I can do anything I want.”
“I am a lady, I am going to have a baby. I want my baby to see a rhino, that’s why I am protecting it,” she said.
Their Facebook page explains they are “constantly plagued by rhino poachers and bush-meat poachers”.
They “search and destroy poachers’ camps, wire-snares and bush-meat kitchens every day. Aerial support, specialist dogs, early detection and rapid response is all that stands between the wildlife and poachers.”
Since they began operating, the reserve they work in hasn’t lost a rhino.