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18 August 2015

World's first all-female squad Protecting South Africa's rhinos

World's first all-female squad Protecting South Africa's rhinos

Unarmed Black Mambas recruited from surrounding communities are successfully guarding a nature reserve inside the Greater Kruger national park

Courage, strength and determination are some of the words to describe this all- female Anti-poaching unit, defying the odds and triumphing over the scepticism and doubt from old school conservationists and local communities.  “With a 90% drop in snare poaching since their deployment, it is safe to say this approach is working” says the brain child of this group and founder of Transfrontier Africa, Craig Spencer.

Craig, an ecologist and head warden of Balule nature reserve, a private reserve within Kruger, developed an approach that he says addresses the huge economic and cultural divide between the wealthy reserves and local communities, which he believes drives poaching. “Arrests in Kruger show that the poaching crews are not just bordering countries but also local South Africans from poor communities. The cash from poaching turns communities against the park” so incorporating them in the programme was imperative.

 The Mambas’ main job is to be seen patrolling the fence. They set up listening posts to hear vehicles, voices and gunshots and patrol the reserve on foot, calling in the armed guards whenever they find something, their physical presence has been a huge deterrent to poachers (which has seen a 75% drop since their deployment)

 

The success of this task force has seen them win the Best Conservationist Practitioner at the Rhino Conservation Awards held in JHB last month. More importantly they are motivating, inspiring and showing other women in the community they can make a difference and protect their natural heritage.

HI-TEC Sports Founder Frank van Wezel, committed to personally assisting the group with a substantial donation which went towards building fences, gear and costly equipment. This initiative kick started HI-TEC’s global anti-poaching awareness campaign, “With more than 13 million pairs of shoes sold in more than 100 countries under the HI-TEC and MAGNUM brands annually, what better vehicle to reach the world than am anti-poaching  swing tag on each pair sold”, says Mr Van Wezel. 

HI-TEC South Africa believes supporting conservation and preservation of wildlife is imperative for all business selling the outdoor dream.  “We are partners with Rim of Africa and The Cape Leopard Trust, both relatively young NGO’s, but execute an exceptional mandate to empower, uplift and educate local communities and conserve and protect our wildlife and natural environment” says Jo Esterhuizen of HI-TEC Sports.  “We are extremely proud to be part of a team so committed to saving our wildlife, and I hope our founder’s actions will inspire others to lead by the same example.”

Fact Box:

Rhino Statistics

It is well known that the plight of the much-loved Rhino in Africa has reached a critical point in terms of extinction.  South Africa is home to more than 90% of the world’s rhino population.  According to WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) 233 Rhinos have been poached in SA in 2014.  In 2013, a record 1004 rhinos were poached on South African soil, with experts expecting total extinction by mid-century.  

Estimates are that rhino horn fetches up to $60,000/kg on Southeast Asian markets, where it is sought after as a medicine, general tonic and even an aphrodisiac. The demand for Rhino horn has increased substantially, with countless wildlife conservation organisations calling for international support and funding to improve intelligence in combating the tragedy on Africa’s horizon.