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Minister Edna Molewa congratulates Black Mambas

Sherato Hotel, Pretoria, Gauteng Province
7 September 2015

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, has congratulated the 26-member Black Mamba anti-poaching unit for being awarded the United Nations top accolade – the Champions of the Earth award.

“The Black Mambas are a shining example of the promise of government, the private sector and communities to eradicating rhino poaching in South Africa.  I, and all South Africans, salute these young women who all come from communities close to the Balule Game Reserve and the Kruger National Park who have shown dedication and commitment to the conservation of our natural world,” said Minister Molewa.

The unit not only focuses on conducting anti-poaching operations, but also educates communities in the area on the benefits of conservation and rhino protection.  

“Much has been said of involving communities in conservation. The Department of Environmental Affairs is achieving this through the Environmental Monitors Programme initiative,” Minister Molewa said.

The Department is working with various stakeholders, including other government departments and SANParks, to create economically viable models to make communities less vulnerable to being recruited by poaching syndicates.

Through the Expanded Public Works Programme’s Environmental Monitors, a unit such as Black Mambas provides additional support to the conservation corps through patrolling and monitoring. 

“The introduction of Environmental Monitors into areas facing high numbers of poaching incidents has played a demonstrable role in combating this crime through their work of educating communities in the area on the benefits of conservation and rhino protection,” said Minister Molewa.

The United National Environment Programme announced today, 7 September 2015, that the

Black Mambas have won the Champions of the Earth Award in the Inspiration and Action Category.   UNEP, in announcing the award, has recognised the “rapid and impressive impact the Black Mambas have made in combatting poaching and the courage required to accomplish it”.

“Community-led initiatives are crucial to combatting the illegal trade in wildlife, and the Black Mambas highlight how effective local knowledge and commitment can be,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“Their many successes over the last few years serve as inspiration for the coming global challenge of ensuring sustainable development, particularly for goal 15 on preserving ecosystems, and show that we all can make a difference with sufficient courage and determination.”

The award will be handed to the unit by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki Moon, in New York on 27 September 2015.

This will be second honour for the Black Mambas this year.

On 27 July 2015, the unit won the Best Conservation Practitioner Category of the annual Rhino Conservation Awards, hosted by the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Game Rangers Association of Africa.

The unit was established in 2013 to protect the Olifants West region of the Balule Nature Reserve creating a barrier between the Kruger National Park, which bears the brunt of rhino poaching, and poachers.   The team comprises 25 women and one man drawn from the local community. 

The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit is one of 20 such teams, comprising of 1 355 Environmental Monitors, in parks across South Africa.  It is an initiative of the Department of Environmental Affairs, administered through the South African National Parks’ Kruger 2 Canyon initiative. 

Minister Edna Molewa praised the Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit team members, and all Environmental Monitors, for their work, and for the manner in which they are doing their work. 

“We should also praise the partners who work with the Department in the implementation of the work being done by these gallant and brave young women, notably the Kruger 2 Canyons programme, and the Balule Management,” said the Minister.

Since the unit was deployed at the Balule Game Reserve, only four rhino have been poached.  The unit has assisted in the arrest of six poachers, reduced snaring by poachers of other wildlife by 76 percent, removed over 1000 snares and broke down dive poachers’ camps and two bush meat kitchens.

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