Women rangers win top UN accolade
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – 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 recognizes the impact The Black Mamba Unit has made in combatting poaching.
UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said community-led initiatives were crucial to combatting the illegal wildlife trade and the Black Mambas highlight the importance and effectiveness of local knowledge and commitment.”
“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,” Steiner said.
“While their work contributes most toward ecosystem preservation and halting biodiversity loss, Goal 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals, it also exemplifies the action-driven solutions needed to achieve all of the SDGs. With every rhino saved the Black Mambas demonstrate that action on a local level is critical to achieving global sustainability and equity.”
The unit has eliminated rhino poaching on the land they protect in over ten months. In the neighbouring reserve, 23 rhinos had been killed over the same period.
Since formation in 2013, the 26-member unit has also helped arrest six poachers, reduced snaring by 76 percent, removed over 1 000 snares , put five poachers’ camps and two bush meat kitchens out of action.
The area under their protection, the Balule Private Game Reserve, is home to an abundance of wildlife – including rhino, 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.
Leitah Mkhabela, a member of the Black Mamba rangers, maintained the organisation’s commitment to combating poaching.
“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.”
The award, to be presented in New York on the 27 September 2015, is in acknowledgment of this fierce, practical courage.
The annual Champions of the Earth awards are the highest environmental accolade that the United Nations can confer upon outstanding individuals and organizations.
– CAJ News
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