Travel July 6, 2018
Many of the world's most majestic wildlife are being poached by humans. Here's what these fierce groups are doing about it.
Poaching has become an epidemic in Africa. Animals like elephants and rhinos are poached in the thousands for their horns and tusks. In 2017, poachers killed and pillaged 1,028 rhinos in South Africa alone. Up to 35,000 African elephants die from poaching every year across the continent. Almost half of the lion population in Africa has been poached in the past 21 years, and both white and black rhinos are nearing extinction, with a 97 percent decrease in the black rhino population over the past 60 years.
While these numbers are dire, there is hope. In South Africa, a country with one of the highest rates of poaching for rhinos and elephants, there has been a decrease in poaching in recent years. The year 2014 saw an all-time high in elephant poaching in South Africa, with over 1,200 elephants deaths; however, by 2016 that number decreased to under 1,100. While the numbers have decreased marginally, a lot still needs to be done. Who’s doing it?
A group of women called the Black Mambas make up South Africa’s all-female anti-poaching squad. The group was founded in 2013 and is focused on “the security of the reserve and the protection of wildlife.” They are located on the borders of Balule Nature Reserve and Kruger National Park in South Africa. Along with protecting wildlife through visual surveillance and daily patrols, the group strives to educate their communities about the dangers that poaching has on their environment.
According to a National Geographic interview with founder Craig Spencer, “The poachers would have to consider defending themselves against these women. Creating orphans and widows is not the answer to this problem.” As a nonprofit, the project is partially funded by the government, and it allows the women to gain invaluable skills that help them better themselves and their families, while at the same time allowing them to pursue their passion in wilderness and conservation.
What’s most interesting about the Mambas is that they patrol unarmed. This decision is strategic and is a nod to the organization’s emphasis on education and surveillance. With twice daily patrols, one at dawn and one at dusk, the Mambas are focused on finding and disabling snares and other traps put in place by poachers. If they do come across poachers, they call for backup.
Yes! Zimbabwe, another country with very high elephant poaching rates, was recently home to the first all-female anti-poaching unit called Akashinga, which means “the brave ones.” The group was founded by the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), and is based in the lower Zambezi Valley.
The program hires and trains the “most marginalized women from rural communities,” educating and training them to be rangers. This is part of the larger goal of providing job opportunities to disadvantaged women, as well as ensuring that individual communities are benefitting from nature reserves and wildlife conservation efforts.
The creation of both the Black Mambas and Akashinga are inspiring new initiatives built to provide at-risk women with skills and job opportunities. The fact that these groups help protect some of the world’s most valuable and vulnerable wildlife is amazing.
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