All-Female Anti-Poaching Unit Black Mambas Stopping The Killing Of Endangered Species In South Africa


We all know poaching and killing animals, especially those which are endangered, is a horrible thing to do. How some people can pass off hunting as some type of sport is so absurd to us, when you can literally pick up a baseball pat or tennis racket and play an ACTUAL sport instead.

Over the past few years the anti-poaching sentiment has reached fever pitch with social media playing an important conduit for awareness about the issue. In 2014, Texas teenager Kendall Jones was on the receiving end of much hatred, including celebrities such as comedian Ricky Gervais and model Joanna Krupa, for posting images of her with a string of dead animals after various hunting expeditions in Africa. Social media users banded together to try to get Facebook to shut down her page, despite her bizarre attempts to explain how hunting and killing beautiful animals somehow “helps” them.

In 2015 the anti-poaching activism was taken to a whole new level when it was reported a dentist from Minnesota hunted and killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe without allegedly knowing he was a protected Lion. The outrage was magnanimous and the dentist had to go in hiding and close down his practice due to the amount of death threats he received. But the awareness of the issue also brought about a positive result, as the US has now banned anyone from bringing African lions back to the country and has even placed them on the endangered list.


Many of us know in the periphery of our consciousness why poaching is bad, but unless we have stories like this in our face every day, and unless it is an issue that we deal with on a day to day basis, we don’t normally pay attention. We could probably find may more negative and horrible stories like the aforementioned, but we believe in framing a topic from a place where positive change can come about.

Awareness is key when it comes to this issue, which is why we had to share with our readers the story of a group of anti-poachers in South Africa who are hoping their presence will make even more people understand why hunting needs to be stopped. The Black Mamabas are an organization founded in 2013 by Transfrontier Africa and was created to protect the Olifants West Region of Balule Nature Reserve, spanning over 400 square kilometers.

There is also something even more incredible special about this organization, that being the majority of their teams are all-female, which is a first in the world. Currently they have 26 Black Mamabas 23 armed guards which work to protect animals in the reserve from being killed by hunters.

The organization say the park is rife with rhino and bush-meat poachers, but they also find other endangered species such as antelope, cheetah and wild dogs caught in snares. It should also be noted that the majority of the anti-poaching squad members do not carry guns, which would make them seem ineffective against the heavily-armed trigger-happy poachers, but that isn’t exactly true.


German-born, South Africa-based photo-journalist Julia Gunther shot a series of stunning images of the Black Mambas for the Huffington Post magazine, which has since been shared by a number of large international media publications including Refinery29 and Al Jazeera America. It is important to note this because it means more awareness is being raised of the need for more anti-poaching units in areas where endangered animals are at risk, and to also bring attention to the vital work these women are doing.

The Black Mambas say the poaching of rhinos alone has increased 9,300% over the past eight years, as there is a great demand for ivory, as well as animal heads as trophies and animal meat, mostly from elite hunters in Asia.

“South Africa is literally being stripped of its natural heritage, plus the poachers keep adapting. If authorities ramp up their checks on the ivory or rhino horn trade, the poachers simply switch to lions,” Julia told Refinery29.

She also told the millennial media website that she first came across the Black Mambas in a Guardian article early in 2015 and was so drawn by their method of not using guns in their anti-poaching efforts.

“It had all the elements of a great story: unarmed women against heavily armed poachers. The empowerment of women for positions that usually would have been reserved for men, the protection of the big five [species], not just for South Africans but for all humankind. All that made me want to spend some time with these wonderful and hardworking ladies,” said Julia.


In 2015 the Black Mambas were one of the recipients of the United Nations’ environmental Champions Of The Earth Award in the category of Inspiration And Action, because of their efforts which have already made a huge impact on the wildlife since their formation.

According to the UNEP, 1,215 rhinos were killed in 2014 alone. This is symptomatic of a devastating epidemic that has pushed the rhino closer to the edge of extinction. The Black Mambas have reduced snaring by 76 per cent, removed over 1,000 snares and put 5 poachers’ camps and 2 bush meat kitchens out of action. These women are determined to ensure endangered animals are around for future generations to marvel at.

“Poaching is very bad. It is important that animals live. The next generation must know the rhinos and elephants in life. If poaching is allowed, they will only see these animals in a picture. This is not right,” said one of the unit members, Lukie, 26, to Julia as part of her series.

The Mambas patrol the reserve day and night, starting with 2-4 units every morning who look for snares an any other signs of poachers within their borders. Each unit patrol lasts for 7 hours. The women live in the reserve compound and spend the rest of their time eating, cooking, studying and socializing with each other.

“I am proud to be a Black Mamba. Many people don’t know that a woman can do this job. We will show them that we can do it. We are proud of it. When our children grow up, they will know the big five [species], and love and respect this nature,” said 22 year old Winnie.


Unemployment is quite high in the community, but the Black Mambas are getting an opportunity to acquire skills while also making a huge difference in the world. Their entire program is run off donations, and anyone can contribute simply by clicking here.

Julia Gunther told Refinery29 that her Black Mambas photo series is part of a larger focus on African Women where she captures the essence of what they are doing for their families and communities.

“What I want to show with Proud Women of Africa is that there are so many brave and strong African women who want to improve their communities, whether it be through education, activism, or simply by being who they are. The Black Mambas are the perfect embodiment of this spirit. They [flout] convention, care about their environment, and want to create a positive future for themselves, their families, and the whole of South Africa,” she said.

One of the Black Mambas, Nkateko, 24, says her life motto is “I can and I will” because of her commitment to making a difference and not giving up on something that is important.

“If you want to achieve something, you must work hard in life…If I get an opportunity to go to wildlife college, I know I will make it. I want to be at the highest level. I don’t give up. I will keep on trying,” she said, as told by Refinery29.

We want the world to know about these women and what they are doing in the name of conservation. They are the type of female role models that young girls can aspire to be like, knowing they are using their life to benefit the world around around them.

Take a look at a special news report form PBS Newshour on the Black Mambas below:

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