In this Women’s month we take a look at the mostly female anti-poaching unit (APU) and their involvement in the Environmental Monitors Programme started by the Department of Environmental Affairs. The Black Mambas APU was founded in 2013 by Transfrontier Africa to protect the Olifants West Region of Balule Nature Reserve and now watch over the entire Balule area.
Patrolling the Kruger to Canyon Biosphere Reserve in Limpopo, the Mambas, along with the monitors, are playing a key role in combating rhino poaching, tackling the bush meat scourge and ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources by local communities.
The initiative was created in response to environmental threats in protected areas and provides skills development, training and job creation to communities across South Africa, and provides additional support to the Kruger National Park as well as numerous private host institutions bordering the park.
According to the department, the goal is to provide reserves with skilled workers from which they are able to recruit future members of their ranger corps. In addition, the Programme’s outcomes include the improvement of environmental management practices, increasing anti-poaching capacity in areas where it is most required, and increasing visitor safety.
A total of 270 environmental monitors have been appointed in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, as well as with the extensive network of partners including land owners, collaborating on the oversight of environmental-related issues in the Biosphere reserve. This includes the 25 members of the Black Mambas.
The Black Mambas have won international acclaim in the past three years for their success in dealing with poaching and the illegal bush meat trade. Members have identified and destroyed over 10 poachers’ camps and three bush meat kitchens within the buffer-zone and reduced snaring and poisoning activities by 76% within their area of operation. Each member spends 21 days a month patrolling the reserves. They are not armed, instead creating a visible police presence in the area. Through real-time tracking and mapping of the rhinos in the Biosphere Reserve, they deploy anti-poaching units to high risk areas. This team receives aerial support and help from specialist tracking dogs that assist with early detection and rapid response. And the effectiveness of the unit is clear with no rhino poached in a 10-month period in 2015.
The members of the Black Mamba unit are recruited from local, previously disadvantaged communities and undergo an intensive six-week training course after which they are deployed to patrol the reserve and educate local communities about the illegal wildlife trade. According to the unit ‘the war on poaching will not be won with guns and bullets, but through the local communities and education’.
Department of Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa says: “We should also praise the partners who work with the Department in the implementation of the work being done by these gallant and brave young women, notably the Kruger 2 Canyons programme, and the Balule management.”
The department says the focus on women’s role in conservation and biodiversity is important too because South Africa is hosting the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES COP17) in Johannesburg from September 24 to October 5, 2016. The country ranks third in the world for its mega-biodiversity ‘and has taken numerous leadership roles in the conservation of biodiversity at all levels by working with different partners at national, regional and global levels’.
“CITES remains one of the world’s most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation through the regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora. Many people are unaware that thousands of species are internationally traded and used daily for food, housing, health care, ecotourism, cosmetics or fashion.”
The conference will also focus on the role of CITES in finding ways to ensure the livelihoods of communities living with wildlife are considered in the implementation of the terms of CITES. The plight of the rhino, the threats faced by the African elephant, pangolin will also be discussed.
For more information visit: Black Mambas APU