Meet Leitah Mkhabela and the world’s first all-female anti-poaching unit | Intrepid Journey Weblog


Leitah and the Black Mambas are deterring poachers with out bullets and galvanizing a brand new technology of wildlife warriors whereas they’re at it. The Huge 5 in Kruger Nationwide Park can relaxation a bit simpler realizing these girls have their again. 

When Leitah Mkhabela was 16, she joined a college program that gave her the chance to go to the close by Timbavati Sport Reserve on the border of Kruger Nationwide Park – one thing few individuals from her village had the possibility to do. Right here, she bought to witness the animals – elephants, lions, rhinos and extra – that decision this reserve house and discovered that they needn’t be feared, like she’d been taught to consider, however as a substitute protected. This program – and this tour specifically – modified the trajectory of her life, giving her an inside take a look at the eye-opening actuality of rhino poaching and the threats wildlife in South Africa face each day. 

Flash ahead to as we speak, and her ardour stays as sturdy as ever – she’s now supervising the world’s first all-female anti-poaching unit, the Black Mambas, the place she has labored as a ranger since 2014. Turning a historically male-dominated trade on its head, they’re placing their feminine prowess to work defending the wildlife of Kruger Nationwide Park in an unconventional type of method.  

Two members of the Black Mambas anti-poaching unit patrol the area by vehicle.
The Black Mambas patrol 20,000 hectares of the Balule Nature Reserve.

Doing issues in another way 

Neglect weapons; neglect violence. The Black Mambas, a workforce of 36 younger Southern African girls, use their expertise to guard and encourage. Don’t be mistaken, they’re a pressure to be reckoned with. They’ve every undergone powerful coaching to safe their positions, however their focus is to save lots of endangered rhinos and different wildlife, not hurt poachers. They patrol 20,000 hectares of the Balule Nature Reserve, a part of Higher Kruger Nationwide Park, South Africa. 

Kruger Nationwide Park is house to the most important inhabitants of rhinos on the planet and attracts important consideration from poachers. In truth, there may be as much as 11 completely different poaching teams within the space at anybody time. The Black Mambas are the primary line of defence, strolling as much as 20 km a day to patrol the sides. 

Leitah informed us, ‘Many individuals consider that solely a person can do that. And we have now proven the world that ladies can do the identical issues males do so long as we’ve been given an opportunity.’ 

A day in Leitah’s life  

I get up early within the morning with pleasure, realizing that I’m going on the market to talk for the animals that may’t communicate for themselves.

‘I get up early within the morning with pleasure, realizing that I’m going on the market to talk for the animals that may’t communicate for themselves,’ Leitah says. ‘We’re the eyes and ears of the reserve.’ 

The workforce patrols the boundaries on foot, protecting their eyes out for something suspicious which may point out poachers are within the space. They destroy snares, conduct routine automobile stop-and-searches and set up digicam traps and early warning know-how to maintain poachers at bay. 

Two members of the Black Mambas anti-poaching unit check the resereve's fenceline with a sniffer dog.
The all-female workforce stroll the sides day by day, performing because the eyes and ears of the reserve.

A far cry from the same old military-style anti-poaching items, the Mambas are completely unarmed. Their intense coaching prepares them for what the day might throw at them, nonetheless, they’re backed by different items if bother (poachers) arises. 

Leitah praised the workforce’s coaching program saying, ‘I’ve discovered to outlive within the bush; I’ve discovered to outlive by challenges that I can come throughout… I’ve discovered the way to defend the rhino towards the poachers.’   

Risking all of it 

It certainly comes as no shock to listen to that the job of a Black Mamba isn’t for the faint-hearted. The work comes with quite a lot of threat, a incontrovertible fact that hits fairly near house for Leitah. In 2022, her cousin Anton Mzimba, who had labored as a ranger in Timbavati for 25 years, was shot useless exterior his house after receiving dying threats. 

Anton was one in every of her largest supporters when she utilized to work with the Black Mambas and had stepped in as a mentor all through her profession. 

‘Being a Black Mamba is a dangerous job,’ she says. ‘You place your life at risk… it’s not for everyone; it’s for individuals who love nature.’ 

Going through the very actual chance of being injured (or worse) by poachers or wildlife, these girls threat their lives to guard the animals who can’t at all times shield themselves.  

Within the ten years because the inception of their unit, the Black Mambas have diminished poaching incidents of their space by 63 per cent.  

‘We’ve decreased rhino poaching… prior to now three years, we haven’t misplaced any rhinos within the recreation reserve that the Black Mambas are working in.’ 

Inspiring a youthful technology 

Coming full circle, Leitah and her workforce aren’t solely defeating poachers, they’re additionally inspiring the subsequent technology of wildlife warriors.  

‘The Black Mambas are the function fashions in the neighborhood that we come from. So, we need to set an instance and train the younger children – the long run technology – concerning the wild animals.’ 

The Black Mambas’ Bush Infants outreach program engages native communities of their work. They’re educating native college youngsters about the great thing about the African wilderness and the animals that want their assist, simply as a younger Leitah was taught years in the past. Hundreds of native youngsters study from their weekly conservation lessons, and lots of of those children have the chance to go to the reserve.  

It’s all about elevating consciousness and galvanizing them as we’ve been impressed.

‘What’s wonderful is that they take the messages again house,’ she says. ‘The poachers come from the villages the children come from. So when these children go house with this data, an uncle or a father may realise that their youngster could be very a lot desirous about wildlife and defending it, and in the event that they proceed killing the rhinos, then they’re destroying their youngster’s future profession. It’s all about elevating consciousness and galvanizing them as we’ve been impressed.’ 

The Intrepid Basis is proudly partnered with Serving to Rhinos, who instantly assist the work of the Black Mambas. Discover out how one can assist by way of the Intrepid Basis or uncover our Kruger Nationwide Park journeys as we speak.  

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