Expand the Black Mambas Rhino Anti-Poaching Unit

by Helping Rhinos USA
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Expand the Black Mambas Rhino Anti-Poaching Unit
Expand the Black Mambas Rhino Anti-Poaching Unit
Expand the Black Mambas Rhino Anti-Poaching Unit
Expand the Black Mambas Rhino Anti-Poaching Unit
Expand the Black Mambas Rhino Anti-Poaching Unit
Expand the Black Mambas Rhino Anti-Poaching Unit
Expand the Black Mambas Rhino Anti-Poaching Unit
Expand the Black Mambas Rhino Anti-Poaching Unit
Expand the Black Mambas Rhino Anti-Poaching Unit
Bush Babies Environmental Educators (and us!)
Bush Babies Environmental Educators (and us!)

Almost five years ago, we set out to help the Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit become more successful by determining whether they have been able to achieve the social impacts in the communities in which they work. The original thought behind the Mambas when they were formed was that they would have two main impacts: reducing poaching in the area that they patrol and changing the hearts and minds of the people in the communities where they work.

The anti-poaching successes have been well documented and are clear. The social impact on the communities were not evaluated by anyone until our work at the time.

We found out at that time that the Mambas were indeed having a great social impact on the communities, improving people's perceptions of wildlife and wild places. However, this was only found in only one of the four communities, the one where a partner project called the Bush Babies Environmental Education Program was operating. Education really was changing the hearts and minds of communites.

Because of our original study, the Mambas completely changed their approach to maximize their social benefits for conservation. First, they recruited Mambas from only the local communities rather than far away from Balule Nature Reserve where they work so as to ensure that local people would benefit from the local conservation work of the Mambas. Second, they created Bush Babies programs in every one of these four local communities.

These rather dramatic changes were made in 2019, and were almost entirely due to the research that we did at that time. In October of 2022, only a few months short of five years since our initial survey, myself and my colleague Katie from The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens went back to the Balule area and sought to detemine whether the changes that were made by the Mambas also changed the support for conservation in those communities. 

Well, we just got back a few weeks ago after conducting over 150 individual interviews in five communities over five weeks! It was a wonderful experience, and was made possible by the kindness of two of the Mambas in particular - Felicia and Collet - two of our original research partners, as well as the six amazing environmental monitors and educators of the Bush Babies - Itumeleng, Mpho, Daniel, Rakao, Shepson, and Keletso. 

I have to say, that if you ever want to have a party in South Africa, I know the people to organize it! Also, if you want to be connected with some of the kindest, empathetic, insightful, hard-working, and brilliant people in South Africa, it will be the same group of folks! 

We will be analyzing these data in detail over the coming months, preparing a report for the Mambas and Bush Babies, and polishing that into another scientific journal article. One thing is clear from an anecdotal review of the data: Education continues to change communities. People who knew of the Bush Babies were more likely to be more supportive of conservation than those who did not!

We expect to see this preliminary conclusion deepen and become more nuanced. We also expect that we will create some additional ideas on how the already wonderfully effective Black Mambas and Bush Babies programs will be able to become even more effective!

Stay tuned. We will continue to keep you posted.

In the interim, thank you for helping to ensure the continued viability of this world-changing conservation initiative. I hope that you feel as lucky to be a part of this as I do.

Best to you.

The awesome Collet & Felicia (& Dr. James & Katie)
The awesome Collet & Felicia (& Dr. James & Katie)


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Sergeant Nkateko leading the North Team on patrol.
Sergeant Nkateko leading the North Team on patrol.

Greetings all,

We all know how amazing are the women in the Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit, which is why we are all gathered here as a community to support and lend our encouragement to their great work. Now, the Mambas have won yet another international award recognizing their excellence - their 11th of this type - and it is thanks in part to us! This time it was from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the umbrella organization overseeing and coordinating most conservation projects around the world at some level.

Specifically, the Northern Team of the Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit of South Africa received an award of Highly Commended Recognition by the IUCN’s International Ranger Award for their commitment to protecting black rhinos in Balule Nature Reserve. This prestigious award from IUCN recognizes the extraordinary dedication of individuals and teams in their commitment to protecting nature and helping local communities.

The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit was recognized for their tireless efforts to reduce poaching of black rhinos and other animals via a multi-faceted approach. The unarmed, all-female group of Black Mambas have helped reduce overall wildlife poaching, snaring, and poisoning activities by over 89% and rhino poaching by 63% by directly patrolling active poaching areas. Furthermore, to help address a core motivator for bushmeat poaching – food scarcity – the Black Mambas have established a community vegetable garden whose yields are regularly distributed to the community. Additionally, their Bush Babies Environmental Education Programs brings the Mambas into schools and communities to inspire the next generation to support habitat and species conservation. 

I was the person who nominated The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit as part of my role as Director of Conservation at The Living Desert (TLD), as we have been collaborating through TLD since 2017. The Living Desert nominated The Black Mambas for this award recognition from the IUCN – the global authority on the status of the natural world. The Black Mamba’s recognition was announced via the IUCN’s Africa Protected Areas Congress held in Kigali, Rwanda last week.

They are an amazing group of women and I hope that you are as inspired by them as I am and shall remain! 

The Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit is an unqualified force for good in the world.

Thanks for being an Agent of Conservation by supporting the Mambas!

North Team Conducting Night Patrol
North Team Conducting Night Patrol
Mambas Receiving the IUCN World Rangers Award
Mambas Receiving the IUCN World Rangers Award
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A huge thanks to you and the Black Mambas, South Africa's first all-female anti-poaching unit, for the support and community engagement to ensure rhinos survive and flourish!

The Black Mambas have been busy, not only during their unarmed patrols of 50,000 hectares, which includes some of the most desirable rhino grazing land, locating snare traps, and ensuring perimeter fences are intact, but also leading within their communities through interactions, engagement and education.  They truly serve as role models within their communities delivering conservation outreach information through their Bush Babies conservation program.  Thousands of local children benefit from this outreach, teaching the benefits of conservation over poaching.

While on a recent patrol in the field, the Black Mambas located an activated snare, which had likely been set in hopes of disabling a rhino.  After requesting back-up, the Black Mambas, along with local assistance, released a young kudu calf (species of antelope) that had become entangeld in the snare with thankfully, only minor injuries.  Without the timely patrol of the Black Mambas and their astute snare identification skills, this calf, or any other animal caught in the snare, might not have survived.  Way to go Black Mambas!

Many words can be used to describe the 36 women who make up the Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit, including mother, sister, auntie, teacher, role model and equally important, defender against poaching.  Together, with your support, a 63 percent reduction in poaching has been achieved within the areas of patrol of the Black Mambas.  Please consider supporting the Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit with your generous donation.  We thank you, the community thanks you and rhinos thank you from the bottom of their 22-pound heart!  

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Black Mamba Community Garden
Black Mamba Community Garden

Greetings and thank you for all your much valued support of The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit.

The great success of the BMAPU is made possible by your generosity - both financial and in telling their story on your social media channels. Please continue to tell their story to as many people as you can and encourage your friends to help to support these amazing women!

As we all know, conservation is an endeavor that requires a huge diversity of skills and perspectives, as well as a great number of people from many organizations and specialties. To that end, the Mambas have been continuing to collaborate with a wide range of veterinarians, military trainers, strategists, presentation coaches, dog handlers, fitness coaches, educators, social scientists, and gardeners recently. 

The Mambas have a community garden that creates food that is distributed to the people in the communities where their Bush Babies Environmental Education Programme is based. These two initiatives really help to improve the relationships between the communities and conservation and are key actions to enact social change that benefits the environment.

The Mambas are a major change agent in three communities that surround Balule Game Reserve where they patrol, as exemplified by a significant study that was done by our partners at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert California. The study done in 2018 demonstrated that where the Bush Babies were active in the Maske community, the Mambas were changing communities. This is the reason why shortly after that, two additional Bush Babies programmes were started up in two other communities.

The Mambas lead the education and outreach programmes in Maseke, Mashishimale, and Makushane at present. In early 2022, The Living Desert will be returning, 4 years after the initial survey to assess the impact in the two new communities andd ensure that the impact contines in Maseke! Stay tuned for more on that in the new year!

Also, the Mambas were interviewed on the BBC World Service recently. Check out the attached link for this great audio interview!

You are an Agent of Conservation by helping the Mambas. Thanks for all you do!

Bush Babies & Mambas providing learners lunches
Bush Babies & Mambas providing learners lunches


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Yenzikile with patrol dog
Yenzikile with patrol dog

Although much of the Northern World has been vaccinated and cultures and economies are opening up, that is definitely not happening in South Africa. Unfortunatley, in the rural world where the Mambas are most active continues to suffer from outrageous unemployment, hunger, and economic challenges.

The role of the Mambas has become transformed due to COVID. As we've shared with you earlier, they have and continue to supply food to neighboring communities around Balule Game Reserve, where they work. Not only is this a super kind humanitarian intervention on their part by helping to reduce hunger locally, but it also of course helps to build support for the Mambas and their work. People are more likley to support the larger work of an organization who has done great things to help them - it's a cornerstone of marketing and government!

Secondly, the Mambas have been patrolling as much as ever. Unfortunatley, they have been finding many more snares set around the perimeter of Balule. This illegal action is a sad consequence of people who need help, as well as the action of criminals who are only seeking to take advantage of people quarantining at home and make a quick buck illegally. The Mambas have been learning how to care for and benefit by the patrolling efforts of dogs, and this has helped improve detection quite signficantly.

Additionally, the decline in tourism in the country has reduced the value to communities of conserving the large animals nearby. This is starting to change, as some contries have started traveling - the US is a leading one - and this will be important in ensuring that local people are benefitting by conservation.

It's a challenging line that the Mambas walk, but one that they do so skillfully and to the benefit of all.

Thanks for supporting their work, and ours!

Best to you all,

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Helping Rhinos USA

Location: Escondido, CA - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @HelpingRhinos
Project Leader:
James Danoff-Burg
Palm Desert, CA United States
$69,868 raised of $100,000 goal
918 donations
$30,132 to go
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