Liz Waid and Bruce Gulland tell about one way officials have reduced poaching – by employing women. These women show that protecting animals and the environment is possible, even without guns and bullets.

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Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

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And I’m Bruce Gulland. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Click here to follow along with this program on YouTube.

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“Lots of people say – how can you work out in the wild when you are a woman? But I can do anything I want.  Many other people, especially young women like us, they want to join us. I am a woman. I am going to have a baby. I want my baby to see a rhino. That is why I am protecting it.”

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Leitah Michabela said this to The Guardian newspaper. Michabela is part of a group in South Africa called The Back Mambas. They work to protect wild animals, particularly one special animal – the rhinoceros, or rhino. Today’s Spotight is on The Black Mambas of South Africa.

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South Africa is a large and beautiful country. Like many countries, it has some special areas that are kept only for nature. People do not live in these game parks or reserves. The areas are separated to protect the plants and animals there. These include large elephants, tigers, lions, and many kinds of smaller animals too. Rhinos also live there. These large grey animals have large pointed horns on their face.

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Rhinos are protected by the laws of the country. But people still hunt them. Some people think that the rhino horn has special powers. They will pay a lot of money for it. Because of this, people illegally kill, or poach, rhinos in South Africa’s game reserves. Now, there are not many rhinos left. If people do not stop killing them, in ten years, there will be none.

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In Kruger National Park in South Africa, the park officials have worked for a long time to stop poachers. Like other National Parks, they employed male rangers with guns to patrol the park. These rangers would shoot or arrest anyone that they found trying to kill the rhinos. The punishment for poaching a rhino is up to 20 years in prison. There is also a fine of over $100,000.

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But even with punishments and armed rangers, the rate of rhino deaths in Kruger Park was still very high. Authorities needed another solution to save the rhinos. So they formed a new group in a nearby area called Balule Nature Reserve. This group has reduced trapping and poaching in their area by 76 percent!

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This new force is made up only of women. They are named the Black Mambas after a deadly kind of snake. The Black Mambas do not carry guns. Instead they concentrate on protecting the animals and natural environment in the Park. Siphiwe Sithole is one of the Black Mambas. She explains to The Guardian why her group is so important.

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“There were men rangers carrying guns. But still the rhinos were being killed and lots of animals were being poached.

I think they said, ‘Let us start something and add women and see what happens.’ Women are more loyal to their jobs. So they feel very strongly about what they do.”  

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In 2013 the Park employed 26 women from the surrounding community. The Women come from poor communities around the Park. Before they begin, they receive military training and wildlife education. They learn methods to follow poachers’ footprints and to take apart traps.

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Since 2013, the Mambas have patrolled the metal fence which marks the Park area. They watch for poachers. They remove traps, or snares, set by poachers. And they report everything they see. The Mambas also go into the community. There, they educate people, especially children, about protecting animals.

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And the women of the Black Mambas have made a big difference. The Guardian says in the six months before they began, 16 rhinos were killed in Balule. In the year after the Black Mambas started, only three rhinos were killed. Siphiwe Sithole says:

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“The Black Mambas are winning the war on poaching. We have zero acceptance of rhino poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. The poachers will fall – but it will not be with guns and bullets.”

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People all over the world have noticed the Black Mambas’ success. The New York Times published pictures of them. They won an award from the UK organization Helping Rhinos. And the UN gave them the Champions of the Earth prize in 2015 for their courage. The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Achim Steiner said:

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“Their many successes are a result of their great courage and strong desire to make a difference in their community. The Black Mambas are an inspiration, not only locally, but across the world to all those working to stop the ugliness of the illegal wildlife trade.”

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Winning awards like this shows people that it is possible to prevent poaching. It also shows local people that the Black Mambas are valuable. Mamba Felicia Mogakane explains:

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“It is about knowing that people in South Africa love and are thankful fo what we are doing. They are so happy that there are Mambas. Some years ago, they used to say this job is for men. Now there are women who are working to protect the wildlife. It means a lot to su and makes us continue to do our job when we know that people are behind us, supporting us. If I were not doing this, I would we sitting at home without a job. Jobs are limited in South Africa. So this is a big chance for me because I am able to take care of my family.”

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The Black Mambas are doing important work to save rhinos. But they are also doing important work in their communities. They are supporting their families by earning money. And people respect and honour them because of the work that they do. The Black Mambas show that communities and nature can work together. They bring hope for both people and animals in South Africa. We close our program today with the words of another Mamba, Collette Ngobeni, who share her hope for the future:

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“If we work together as a community, we can solve this problem. People need to open their minds and their hearts. It is not about money. It is about our culture, our future.”

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The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this programme and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at  This program is called: Black Mambas, Women Protecting South Africa.

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You can also leave a comment on our website. Or email us at And find us on Facebook – just search for Spotlight Radio.

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Look for our free listening app in the Google Play store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Do you like animals? What do you think about women taking on jobs normally done by men? 

Join the discussion

  • Yes I do like like the animals, I belive they can do like men and better some jobs I belive they are loyalty, clever.

  • Yes I love animals.
    I think in this time the line deference between men and women will disappear,Especially in the work but in other jobs will still.

  • i think now in this time a lot of things is changed and i agree to womens do a jobs that the mans do problem to help others but not all of the jop can a woman do it.

  • South Africa has been very lucky to find women able to solve the problem of rhino poaching, without the use of weapons. There would be a need for so many women like this in Europe too, where two brotherly peoples are fighting each other, with the same history, language, culture, religion, while all the other neighboring peoples, instead of helping them find a reconciliation, give them weapons to continue to kill himself. I agree with those who said that war is the only sport of kings to which the people are invited. Let’s hope that in the future many more women and men will know how to say no to kings who want to enjoy war.

  • Of course i like animals , l support women’s work if they want to ! sure they will be successed at it , all support and motre success for women

  • Iam so happy And thank you to everyone who came in today to support my project for this project I really appreciate you and your help with this matter as I will work on this for a while to come in to the community to see

  • yes i like animals very much , and i hope i worked in job that related to the animals or natural. About the women who work in the jobs that normaly done by the men, i thenk the women enable to do anything , any work and any jobs, because the women have the energy to protuct our families, So she is also can be protect animals and do what the men doing in any fildes.
    Thank you 🙂

  • In my opinion, I think that, women today, are doing a great and an incredible efforts in their jobs. Women have integrity’s spirit, and are more loyal, engaged, involved and motivated to success in their work. For me, I adore animals, and I hope that we will together protect all types of animals. It’s about a respect towards our nature, and an engagement towards our culture. And I think that women are more able to do this job. So men can do it also, but we must have the two intelligences of men and women. Men can bring force and dynamic. But women will bring much more of loyalty in work and motivation to protect the wildlife.

  • I like animals so much because they very beautiful and the woman’s can jobs that working men’s because she half the society

  • I like animals and wildlife. They must be protected by governments from being hunted and poached. The Black Mambas group is a good example for successful women in many fields. Although this work for men, these group proved they can do the job perfectly and efficiently

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