“I think we can stop poaching”

The Black Mambas is the first almost all-female anti-poaching unit in South Africa. Every day the women patrol Balule Private Game Reserve near Kruger National Park. One of them is Collet Ngobeni, a Black Mamba since its inception.

“When I grew up I thought wildlife was only for white people. But that is not true, the wild animals are for all of us and I’ve been in love with nature since high school. The training here was very hard, we stayed in the bush for two weeks and though we don’t carry weapons we had firearm training and hand- to-hand combat training. All in all, the training lasted three months.
Anti-poaching is not what women traditionally do but I think women sometimes can do it better than men because men could leak information to the poachers. Women won’t do that. We are more secretive.

When the Black Mambas first started, we found lots of snares set out by poachers who wanted to catch bush meat. But now we patrol the fence daily and the snaring has almost stopped. The poachers are scared to be caught. If we see a suspected poacher or a camp, we call for armed response to help us.

We are unarmed, but we are the eyes and ears of the reserve. And I think it’s the right decision not to carry weapons. We cherish life.

When you sit alone and look around you to see the beauty of nature, it gives you strength and a lot of positive feelings. But this is not only an anti-poaching project, we also go out in the community to talk about nature and conservation. I do this because the wildlife can’t protect itself and I want the future generation to see the animals in their proper environment, not in a zoo. I’m proud to be one of the women in this team, we’re like a big family and I think we can stop poaching.”


Görrel Espelund

Journalist, author and Africa guide. Read more about Görrel here.