Unenvironment-Sweeping the Bush, protecting the land - The women quashing poaching
The black mamba is the most venomous snake in sub-Saharan Africa. One bite can kill a person in just a few hours. It is also the namesake of the all-female anti-poaching unit that operates in the 56,000-acre private Balule Nature Reserve at Kruger National Park in South Africa.
The name choice represents “the strength of the mambas, and their quick reactions,” said Valeria van der Westhuizen, communications manager for the Mambas. “Strength of the woman in South Africa, strength of the Mamba.”
The Black Mambas were founded in 2013 and comprise of 14 women largely from the Phalaborwa community that resides near the park. Prior to the group’s formation, poaching for rhino horn and bushmeat in the reserve was rampant, with poachers—many who came from the local communities—fetching up to US$26,000 for one horn. Leitah Mkhabela, the supervisor Mamba, said that a reason for the nearby communities’ involvement was that they didn’t feel the wildlife belonged to them, as most had never had a chance to even see the animals. Poaching was a way to make a lot of money, quickly.
This is why one of the Mambas’ mandates is to educate on the importance of conservation as well as gather information from locals about poachers.
“The community needs to benefit from the reserves that are near,” said Mkhabela, highlighting a wider ongoing discussion across Africa on protected areas. “If the game reserves can benefit the local communities by providing freshwater sources or giving bursaries for higher education, we are going to see a decrease in rhino and bushmeat poaching.”