The black mamba snake strikes fast and nearly always captures its prey. South Africa’s Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit does the same.
With rhino, elephant, lion and even pangolin poaching on the rise in South Africa, officials there created the Mambas, teams of mostly women who patrol the Balule Nature Reserve. The idea was to provide skills and job opportunities to local residents and to protect irreplaceable wildlife.
It’s been a win-win situation. Since 2013, the Mambas have expanded their patrol to 400 square kilometers, destroying more than 12 poachers’ camps and three bush-meat kitchens. The unit has also reduced snaring and poisoning — poachers often use these methods to kill cheetahs and wild dogs — by 76 percent.
The Mambas educate their communities about wildlife and encourage sustainable use of resources. They also help rhino conservationists design a real-time, rhino-tracking map for the reserve.
The United Nations named the Black Mambas Champions of the Earth in 2015. That’s the U.N.’s highest environmental honor!