The Black Mambas, the World’s First Female Anti-Poaching Unit

The fearless women who protect South Africa’s Balule Nature Reserve. | By NGT Staff  
The Black Mambas work with local communities to create awareness about wildlife conservation, using education—as opposed to guns and bullets—to curb poaching. Photo: National Geographic/Youtube
The Black Mambas work with local communities to create awareness about wildlife conservation, using education—as opposed to guns and bullets—to curb poaching. Photo: National Geographic/Youtube

The Black Mambas may be unarmed, but they are powerful. Since they began work in 2013—as the first majority women anti-poaching unit in the world—the region they protect has seen a 75 per cent drop in snaring and poaching incidents.

The ladies operate in the Balule Nature Reserve, within South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park, plagued by poachers and hunters thirsting for rhino horns, elephant tusks, and bush meat. They belong to communities that live on the fringe of the reserve, and receive six weeks of paramilitary training in addition to learning about arrest procedures, animal behavior and fitness regimes.

A regular day for a Black Mamba will include patrolling up to 20km by foot during the day and by vehicle at night, removing snares set by hunters, setting up roadblocks, and conducting vehicle checks and observations. They also educate local communities about the importance of conservation and coexisting with wildlife. As one member puts it in the video below, “they are the eyes and ears of the reserve.”

Closer to home, Maharashtra’s Special Tiger Protection Force has an all-women anti-poaching squad called Durga Shakti, which operates in the state’s tiger reserves at Pench and Tadoba.

Watch the video to see the Black Mambas at work.

Psst. Want a weekly dose of travel inspiration in your inbox?