Pretoria – Environmental Affairs Minister 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 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced on Monday that the Black Mambas have won the Champions of the Earth Award in the Inspiration and Action Category.
UNEP has recognised the unit’s rapid and impressive impact made in combatting poaching and the courage required to accomplish it.
“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 award will be handed to the unit by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, 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 from the local community.
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 1 000 snares and broke down dive poachers’ camps and two bush meat kitchens. – SAnews.gov.za