Passion for wildlife can be seen as a luxury. The luxury to afford a ‘bush break’. The luxury of contributing disposable income to high-profile anti-poaching projects. The luxury of enrolling in a high-priced ranger course … From my armchair conservationist position, with not much disposable income but a good internet connection, I came across an inspiring project – the Black Mamba project.
The objectives of the Black Mambas project are not only the protection of rhinos through boots on the ground but also by being role models in their communities in an effort to find a long-term solution to poaching. The Black Mambas comprises mostly women who, since 2013, while protecting the borders of 52 000Ha bordering the Kruger National Park, demonstrate a passion for wildlife which also has a duty of responsibility.
The Bush Babies environmental education programme has reached over 2000 children since 2015. The Mini Bush Babies programme introduces young learners (age 7 – 9 years) to conservation in a very hands-on way. The Bush Babies school programme for learners in higher grades (Grade 6 – 7), has conservation based lesson plans that are interlinked into the existing schools’ curriculum of 10 schools in the area.
Engaging and involving children of all ages, the Black Mambas also run school holiday programmes and on the last day, learners are taken into the reserve to experience what they have been taught. Nature guardians are senior Bush Babies, hand-picked to encourage environmental awareness in their schools and communities to address environmental issues like litter. Top achievers are taken on bush camps – camping in a big 5 area, going on game drives, a boat cruise and bush walks.
Partially sponsored by the Global March for Elephants, the Black Mambas Grannies in Parks program relies on their Bush Babies to identify grandparents aged 60+ who have lived all their lives on the boundaries of the Kruger National Park, but who have never been into the reserve. Experiencing the Park and sharing indigenous knowledge reaches further into the community.
The objective of the Black Mambas is clearly stated:
“It is our belief that the ‘war’ on poaching will not be won with guns and bullets, but through social up-liftment and the education of local communities surrounding the reserves. The Black Mambas are not only Anti-Poaching Rangers, they are role models who cherish life and do not want to live in a village of orphans and widows.
We have flipped the cliché that “it takes a village to raise a child” into an action plan resulting in the children raising their community. Providing opportunities to learn about themselves and their environment and in turn, taking that knowledge home, leading to sustainable use of resources and instill environmental problem-solving skills and ultimately an ethical ethos in our future generations.”
This may be a single example – but it represents a mind-set and ethos that can spread through conservation communities, for the benefit of not only the wildlife, but the communities whose livelihoods depend on our wildlife.
And for the arm-chair conservationists, here is a portal to contribute to making a meaningful difference – and a “dress to learn” programme gives an opportunity to donate to supporting learners in the community in need of shoes and school uniforms.
By Lee Maddeux