It’s a sad fact that many of the world’s most majestic and beautiful animals are at risk from poaching. Elephants, rhinos, tigers and many other species have suffered a decline in numbers in recent years. While in some countries there is a lack of political will to deal with this problem, other governments have put money and resources into the battle against extinction. Often, a country’s way of combating poachers consists of units of armed rangers who patrol reserves and national parks. While these have been successful in some places, there are other less violent and more positive ways to solve this problem.
The Black Mambas, which were formed in 2013, are the world’s first all-women anti-poaching units. The award-winning Mambas operate in Balule nature reserve, in South Africa. Here, they combat poaching, mainly focused at rhinos. The Mambas remove snares and destroy bushmeat kitchens and poachers’ camps. This has resulted in a steep reduction in poaching since their formation. Black Mambas work alongside armed guards, but do not carry weapons themselves.
However, the Mambas are unusual in one key way: they focus on community links, particularly with children. All of the women who work as Mambas are from local communities, which are frequently poor and disadvantaged. The women are given training and many support their families on their earnings. They are also involved in the Bushbabies educational programme, which works in conjunction with local schools. The children are taught about conservation, with an emphasis on learning new skills and appreciating their environment.
However, the idea of women being involved in conservation on a large scale goes back a bit further, to 2007, when women forest guards were recruited to India’s Gir sanctuary. These women protect the big cats such as Asiatic lions, which roam the park. They rescue and care for injured or abandoned animals. Unfortunately, poaching is also a threat, aimed at the Asiatic lions, an endangered species.
The Gir forest guards also work with children and have connections to local schools. Due to this educational angle, school children have been positively influenced by the female Gir guards, who make excellent role models. It is also claimed that the Gir forest guards are an inspiration for Indian women as a whole, because of the way that many have defied caste and the doubts of their families to become successful in their work.
Both of these initiatives have had a positive impact on local communities, endangered animals, school children, and of course, the women themselves. In my opinion,when it comes to protecting animals and conservation, no method is going to work unless nearby communities can get on board. Similarly, it makes perfect sense to empower women by getting them involved in work that is happening on their doorstep. The Black Mambas and the Gir forest guards have enjoyed considerable publicity and praise, I hope that other regions and countries will follow their example when it comes to taking a stand for conservation.
Photo Credits: http://www.bbc.com and The Black Mambas Facebook