Early detection and rapid response is all that stands between the poachers and our wildlife. The Black Mambas are the first line of defense providing boots on the ground and are responsible for the early detection of poaching insurgents through monitoring and surveillance during their daily patrols. This allows for our armed units to remain within the reserve with the ‘assets’.
The Black Mambas anti-poaching strategy includes ‘visual policing’ through daily boundary patrols which are conducted on foot during first light and by vehicle at last light. Observation and listening posts are stationed in critical areas such as known entry and exit points or popular rhino waterholes for signs of poisoning. Disruptive patrols are performed within areas of high rhino density to thwart any attempts to poach rhino in our area. Road Blocks involve searching know and unknown vehicles for any illegal or suspicious items. Building sites and staff compounds within the reserve are searched regularly to gather intelligence and ensure all reserve rules are being adhered to and regular sweeps are conducted throughout the Reserve and neighbouring Tribal lands in search of snares.
Snares are wire or cable traps which are set by what we refer to as ‘Bush meat poachers’, with the intention to catch variety of antelope species for their meat which they can then sell. These traps are non-selective, catching anything that moves through them and causing a slow death, primarily due to dehydration. Larger animals can usually break the traps away from their ‘anchor’ points, but are then left with it still cutting into the body part that became entangled causing infections, amputations or in severe cases and if left untreated, death.
Searching for and destroying snares as well as poacher’s camps and bush meat kitchens forces these poachers to leave the area as they gain no reward for their efforts. This is not only important for the obvious reasons, but also assists towards larger scale poaching (Rhino). If a person can sneak into a reserve to set snares or to collect their catch, they have the potential to evolve into a rhino poacher. They gain ‘local knowledge’ of the area making them valuable contacts for organized rhino poachers. Bush Meat poachers run the same risks as Rhino poachers by entering a protected area, the only difference is the reward is smaller.
The Bush Babies Environmental Education Program
The Bushbaby (Galago moholi) symbolises and defines our Environmental Education Program, where learners are the ‘Babies’ of the community learning about the ‘Bush’. With the support of local communities, tribal authorities and participating schools the Bush Babies Program is now at 10 schools within the communities boarding the western boundary of Kruger National Park. Currently, reaching 870 children aged between 12-15 years old, we aim to create an environmentally literate community.
The Bush Babies Program is interlinked into the curriculum of the local schools, bring knowledge to life whilst raising awareness about their surrounding environment, providing a better understanding of conservation and leading to sustainable use of resources and ultimately installing an ethical ethos in our future generations.
The schools are visited on a weekly basis, by our Black Mamba Environmental Education Officer and a different aspect based on the theme of the day is discussed to familiarize the learners with their natural environment and emphasizing the importance of protecting it for future generations. Black Mamba Rangers make regular visits to the schools and teach the learners about poaching and how they are working to protect these species and how its affect’s them personally as well as the environment.
The Black Mamba Rangers are also mothers, who know how to nurture a child to understand the basics of life and thus the importance of looking after our environment.
Transfrontier Africa in conjunction with Balule Nature Reserve, has an active rhino research program which is designed to investigate the effectiveness of the “Rhino range expansion program” and all other aspects of rhino management and protection based on scientific investigation.
This includes the daily monitoring of the rhino to design a real-time locality map of rhinos in the hot-spots and high-risk areas to aid in deploying the anti-poaching units effectively. The location of rhinos is deduced from rhino sightings or signs recorded by our anti-poaching patrols, as well as using technology such as camera traps, VHF and GPS transmitters.
All this information is captured then collaborated at the Black Mamba Operations Room and is used by management to ensure all anti-poaching units are deployed in the correct areas to protect the rhino