A predominantly female team of South African anti-poaching rangers has been recognised by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) for their anti-poaching activities.

The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit, will be honoured with the UN’s top environmental accolade, the Champions of the Earth award.

The unit, which is based at the Balule Private Game Reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park, was founded in 2013 and is made up of 26 members.

In the last 10 months, not a single rhino has been poached Balule, thanks to the unit, which in stark contrast to the many other game parks where over 700 have been poached so far this year.

The Black Mambas have also helped with the arrests of six poachers, reduced snaring by 76 per cent, removed more than 1 000 snares and helped remove five poachers’ camps and two bush meat kitchens from the area.

“I am not afraid, I know what I am doing and I know why I am doing it. If you see the poachers you tell them not to try, tell them we are here and it is they who are in danger,” said Black Mambas member, Leitah Mkhabela.

“Animals deserve to live, they have a right to live. Do your part. When demand ends, the killing will end. Say yes to life. Say no to illegal rhino horn and elephant ivory.”

Working as a Black Mamba anti-poaching ranger involves patrolling the reserve, walking up to 20km a day. The unit also educates the community that lives around the Kruger park about the damaging effects of poaching and discourages them from assisting poachers in return for payment.

“Community-led initiatives are crucial to combating the illegal wildlife trade and the Black Mambas highlight the importance and effectiveness of local knowledge and commitment,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“Their many successes are a result of their impressive courage and determination to make a difference in their community. The Black Mambas are an inspiration not only locally, but across the world to all those working to eliminate the scourge of the illegal wildlife trade.”

The Black Mambas will officially receive their award at a ceremony to held on the 27th September in New York.

[Source and image – UNEP]