Black Mamba – Women leading in the fight against rhino poaching

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We chat to Collete Ngobeni, from the award-winning Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit, on fighting against rhino poaching and illegal bush meat trade.

By: Fundiswa Nkwanyana

1.As an environmental monitor, my job entails rooting out rhino poaching and illegal bush meat trade in the Balule Nature Reserve. This includes checking for any suspicious and illegal activities within the reserve. As a conservation activist and a mother, I want to ensure that animals do not become extinct. I want my children to also see them.

2. When I started this job, my family was surprised and concerned about my safety. Most people think that animals are dangerous, but that is not the case; they are just misunderstood. I explained to my family that I enjoy working with animals. They now understand this, and are supportive.

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3. When I come across one of the big five animals while on patrol, I remain calm and change direction. I listen for the different sounds that animals make. This is because depending on these sounds, I can assess whether I may be in danger or if the animal is in distress. I can articulate a lot from the sounds that animals make.

4. Although I love my job, I hate it when visitors to the nature reserve do not want their cars to be searched, and become rude and aggressive. Searching cars is part of my job. I also get upset when I find that animals have been killed or their horns cut off.

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5. Working in a male-dominated industry has made me realise that many people are still sceptical that women can do this job well. People do not think that women are capable of working on the ground with animals. We have proven, over and over again, that we are capable.

6. My advice to other women who want to be environmental monitors is

to not listen to negative comments that people make, especially men. We need to believe in ourselves, and grab the opportunities that are available, even if they are in a male-dominated industry.