Women are strong, beautiful forces of nature. We are capable of anything we put or minds to. Two powerful, inspiring groups of women are proving just that by taking a stand against poaching in different regions of Africa.
It is difficult to predict how many animals we truly loose to poaching each year due to the operation of the black market, but it could be in the hundreds of thousands. Ivory from elephants or the horn of the rhino can be seen as symbols of success in Asian countries such as China or Vietnam, and “medicinal potions” (which have no proof of working) created from lion bones or pangolin scales are sold as remedies for anything from headaches to convulsions in markets there. In 2011, it became painfully clear how important it is we fight against poaching and the senseless death of these animals when the Western Black Rhino was declared extinct. Currently, all 5 remaining rhino species are on the Endangered Species List as well as elephants, sea turtles, tigers, and many other poached animals.
So in 2013, when the Balule Nature Reserve lost 13 rhinos in an incredibly short time, Craig Spencer, a conservationist and ecologist, founded the Black Mambas to protect the Western region of the reserve. Now, they’ve expanded and protect ALL regions of the reserve in Greater Kruger National Park (South Africa). Spencer says their main goal is to “make their area of influence the most undesirable, most difficult, and least profitable place to poach any species.”
The Black Mambas are the first majority female anti poaching unit in Africa, made up of powerful women in their twenties to thirties who have overcame extreme adversities. They come from communities around the reserve, and many of them are single mothers. They have survived domestic abuse or poverty, and now they are taking care of the animals and themselves. They are proving in a culture long controlled by men that they deserve respect, are capable of strong positions in the community, and can provide for themselves and their children. As a result, they are role models for the girls in their communities. They’ve found that women are better at deescalating conflict and collecting intelligence in these types of situations than men.
The women begin with four weeks of intense training, then a two week military style coarse. They focus mostly on rhino preservation, but protect all the species in the area. The women patrol daily, searching for signs of poachers, and locating and dismantling snares and traps. Other armed units can be called in when necessary.
They take a stand on non-violence, and do not use weapons in their anti poaching unit. They say, “the war on poaching will not be won with guns and bullets, but through social upliftment and education of local communities surrounding the reserves.” The Black Mambas visit schools through their Bush Babies program to educate the children living in the surrounding area about the benefits of wildlife conservation to the environment and economy, inspiring future generations to do the right thing.
The efforts of the Black Mambas have greatly reduced poaching in the reserve, and they are expanding into other areas and spreading the word, even being invited by the Irwin family recently to speak at a zoo in Australia on International Women’s Day.
The Akashinga, or “The Brave Ones” is a similar group of sixteen women operating out of Zimbabwe. They were founded by a former Australian soldier, who saw the need for a team to protect the wildlife there and found the women to be more resilient than men. These women, who are also domestic violence survivors and single mothers, are trained snipers and rangers, focusing on elephant conservation. They go through rigorous military style training, and are extremely strong and passionate about what they do. They are all vegan, which is extremely rare for African diets. They say they see no need to eat what they protect, as many of the animals are killed for what is known as “bush meat.”
As I’ve researched these women, I’ve been so incredibly moved and inspired by their hard work and dedication. I’ve been brought to tears by their words and instilled with even more love for these creatures. I am so thankful for being a woman, for the power we have within us, and for the will we have to make this world a better place! If we stand strong together, there is no doubt the world and the wildlife on it will reap the benefits. These women are role models for those in their communities and now across the globe, all because they took a stand for what mattered to them and for the planet! That is so precious and the Earth and future are grateful.
How Can I Help?
We all want to stop the senseless death of these animals and keep our planet rich with life for generations to come. Also, it’s so important to support these women for the incredible, hard work they do. By donating to the Black Mambas or sponsoring one of them, you can help keep them supplied with fuel, uniforms, food, and even daycare for their children while they’re on the front lines. For as little as $5 a month, you can make a difference in their lives and support conservation and antipoaching efforts.
You can also donate to or sponsor the Akashinga here.
Any amount counts towards critical conservation work! Thank you for your love and contribution.