The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit, a South African and majority-women ranger group, has been announced as one of the winners of the United Nation’s top environmental accolade, the Champions of the Earth award.
With this award, in the Inspiration and Action category, UNEP is recognizing the rapid and impressive impact the Black Mamba unit has made in combating poaching and the courage required to accomplish it.
“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,” commented UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
The Black Mamba APU was founded in 2013 by Transfrontier Africa and created to protect the Olifants West Region of Balule Nature Reserve and has since expanded to cover the entire Balule area, 400km². The unit has ensured that not a single rhino has been poached on the land they protect in over ten months. In the neighbouring reserve, 23 rhinos have been killed over the same period. Since being founded, the 26-member unit has also helped arrest six poachers, reduced snaring by 76 per cent, removed over 1,000 snares and put 5 poachers’ camps and 2 bush meat kitchens out of action.
The area that they protect, is home to an abundance of wildlife – including not only rhino but leopards, lions, elephants, cheetahs and hippos. It is part of the Greater Kruger National Park, a network of over 2 million hectares of protected areas that is home to thousands of birds, impalas, giraffes, wildebeest, buffalos, antelopes, hyenas, crocodiles, fish and zebras.
Protecting the rhino is vital in South Africa, where 1,215 rhinos were killed in 2014 alone. This is an increase of over 12,000 percent since 2004 and symptomatic of a devastating epidemic that has pushed the rhino closer to the edge of extinction.
The annual Champions of the Earth awards are the highest environmental accolade that the United Nations can confer upon outstanding individuals and organizations. Previous laureates of this inclusive award range from leaders of nations to grassroots activists – all visionaries whose leadership and actions drive the world ever closer to its aspirations of environmental sustainability and a life of dignity for all.
The award will be presented in New York on the 27 September 2015.