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
A member of The Black Mambas with a snare
A member of The Black Mambas with a snare

The Black Mambas Detection Success and Training


Greetings fellow conservation warriors!   Thank you for taking the time to read The Black Mambas update, which shares two very critical and current topics.  First, snares, a trap that is intentionally set by trespassers with the intent of catching animals, can be deadly to many forms of wildlife.  This form of trap is commonly used by poachers and detection of these snares is critical to conservation efforts.  The Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit has had tremendous success during the last quarter and have found and removed a total of 37 snares set and hidden within their surveillance areas.  

Made from wire or cable, attached to a tree in the bush and characterised by a deadly noose, snares are non-selective weapons that trap and kill or injure any animal that passes through them. Non-target species, such as wild dogs, hyaenas, elephants or hippos, are also affected by this threat, which can result in injuries, loss of limbs and death. This threat is compounded by the fact that poachers sometimes forget the location of snares that have been set, leaving them in the landscape long after the poachers have departed and moved to different areas.  Actions such as this cause potential danger for extended periods of time in the bush.  The Black Mambas tireless efforts to locate and remove snares is critical to safety and conservation.  

Also this quarter we are happy to report that The Black Mambas attended a critical refresher course on “Stop the Bleeding” taught by trained, medical professionals.  During the first part of the course, The Black Mambas attended a theoretical class, during which they were reminded how to treat a patient with life-threatening bleeding with a tourniquet and by packing the wound. Later in the day a simulation was run to test their reaction when facing a patient suffering from intense bleeding from multiple body parts.  This course will help The Black Mambas to deal with injuries that may occur when working in the bush.  

We are proud of the work The Black Mambas continue to provide with your support.  Thank you for taking the time to read and think about the critical efforts put forth by The Black Mambas, who appreciate all of the support you provide.  

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Black Mamba Members in training
Black Mamba Members in training

Greetings and a huge thank you (ngiyabonga in Zulu) from the Black Mambas and Helping Rhinos.  We are glad you are here, reading our update as we have exciting news to share.

A new specialist Black Mamba team, who will focus on pro-active crime-prevention on the landscapes of Greater Kruger National Park will soon be fully operational following an intensive period of training. 

Helping Rhinos is proud to have led the funding of this team which has been selected from over 200 applications received and the successful candidates were jointly chosen after a screening process by our fitness partners, the local tribal authorities and our senior Black Mambas.

The team was engaged with a specially tailored training regime for the first 6 weeks of their deployment and although their training includes the traditional para-military curriculum, we have solicited the expertise of external specialists to upskill the team to focus on the following aspects of our pro-active model: 

  • Search-and-destroy poachers snares, traps and camps.
  • Conduct roaming and routine vehicle stop-and-searches.
  • Conduct frequent inspections and searches of contractors building sites and camps.
  • Regular visits to unsupervised staff quarters in remote areas.
  • Take responsibility for remote camera-traps and other early-warning technology.
  • Keep databases up-to-date on all of the above.
  • Hold frequent observation and information-gathering posts in hot-spots and on suspicious activities.

This team will be mobile across all the landscapes where the Black Mambas operate in the Greater Kruger National Park and will work directly with the Operations Center. 

The above-mentioned duties have been carried out by the other Black Mamba teams, on an ad hoc basis, and as the responsibilities of the Mambas has increased, it has become necessary to deploy a team that focuses on these aspects, while the other teams continue with their disruptive patrols. 

The Black Mambas strive to make the landscape undesirable and unprofitable for poachers and foster an ethos of environmental patriotism among the villages.  This requites continuous pro-active interventions and includes disruptive patrols and information gathering at a high frequency. 

We thank you and would be honored to be the recipient of your generous donation in support of the Black Mambas. 

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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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Helping Rhinos USA

Location: Escondido, CA - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @HelpingRhinos
Project Leader:
James Danoff-Burg
Palm Desert , CA United States
$73,796 raised of $100,000 goal
1,006 donations
$26,204 to go
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