Today is March 8th, otherwise known as International Women’s Day (YAY!). Today we take a moment out of our lives to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the globe. There are so many noteworthy women around the world, women who are standing up for what they believe in, women who have set up organisations and companies to break the glass ceiling and women who every day, in their own way, fight for equality. This year, however, I would like to introduce you to a group of incredible women who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect South Africa’s wildlife. This year, on International Women’s Day 2017, I would like to introduce you to The Black Mambas.

So Who Are They?

Founded in 2013 by Transfrontier Africa, The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit is the first female unit operating in South Africa’s Balule Reserve (part of the Greater Kruger Park). With a fierce passion for wildlife and conservation, these women have dedicated their lives to fighting for it. In a male-dominated industry, these rangers spend their time patrolling the area on foot by day and vehicle by night. With their paramilitary training behind them and the full knowledge that should they come face to face with a poacher it may be the last thing they ever do, The Black Mambas are setting the standard for wildlife protection everywhere.

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A casual day on the job consists of nothing more than visual policing, pulling out snares, conducting roadblocks, patrolling boundaries, observations and tracking animals. To be completely honest, I feel exhausted just writing that list, so I have the deepest respect for these women. But they don’t stop there. The Black Mamba’s have a deep passion for educating the community and spend a lot of their hours in local schools teaching the children about wildlife and how important it is to protect it.

Breaking the Stereotype

When people think of rangers patrolling the bush for poachers, they tend to think of men. The Black Mambas are doing everything they can to break this stereotype “poachers are scared when they see us patrolling” says Collet, another member of the team. The majority of the team are from previously disadvantaged communities which border Kruger National Park, and they serve as a constant reminder that anything is possible as long as you are willing to work for it.

“It empowers women – we are fighting against poachers and catching them” says Leitha, when asked what she loves about her job. On a day to day basis, The Black Mamba’s make it their job to break down stereotypes and set an example for other women and girls who have a passion for wildlife conservation. The battle they are facing is one which is so large that it simply cannot fall to just one-half of the population. Poaching is a long drawn out war, and they are under no illusions that there is still a long way to go, yet they will continue to work, continue to educate and most importantly, they will continue to fight.

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What Does The Future Hold?

Unfortunately, the battle for our wildlife is far from over, with poaching statistics reaching an all time high in recent years. Just yesterday, we received the devastating news that Satao II, a beautiful 50-year-old giant tusker elephant became the latest victim of poaching in Kenya. The number of these giant elephants has now been reduced to 25 in the world. 25! The bad news doesn’t stop there, as we are down the last three northern white rhinos in the world. They reside in Ol Pejeta in Kenya and are not capable of breeding. To add insult to injury, a rhino was shot in a Parisian zoo yesterday too. It makes you think – when is enough actually enough?

Yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. China recently announced that they are putting in processes to make the ivory trade completely illegal, and one of the most notorious poachers nicknamed ‘The Devil’ has been given 12 years in jail (in my opinion it should be life – but there you go). These acts show that we are making a difference, even if at times it may not feel like it.

How Can You Help?

The Black Mambas are an inspiration to conservationists everywhere, and this International Women’s Day you have the opportunity to sponsor these women and help with the work they are doing. Organisations such as these rely on the help and support of others, so today let’s give these women the recognition they deserve and help them in their fight.

Want to do more? Well, luckily for you there are loads of ways you can get involved, and now is when we need it most. You can adopt an elephant or rhino from David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust or Helping Rhinos, donate to organisations such as the KWS and help the rangers who put their lives at risk. If you fancy doing something else, then why not join me on the 23rd of March for the Helping Rhinos charity fundraiser in London? You can get tickets here.

I’ll end this blog post by giving a final shout out to The Black Mambas and the fantastic work they are doing and they, in turn, have their own message to the world:

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Happy International Women’s Day everyone!

*Photography: Images 1 and 4 are copyrighted to The Black Mambas and images 2 and 3 are copyrighted to HelpingRhinos.org. Rights reserved.