Meet The Black Mambas, the world's first all-female anti-poaching unit. According to Slate, its 26 members defy South African gender norms by spending their days patrolling the country’s Balule Nature Reserve—a job that’s traditionally only been held by men.
Balule Nature Reserve is home to many types of animals, but its rhinoceros are particularly vulnerable: Around 80 percent of the world's wild rhino population lives in South Africa, making the country a magnet for illegal hunters. The animals are prized for their horns, which are sold and used for ceremonial or medicinal purposes in many southeast Asian countries.
The Black Mambas keep an eye out for illegal hunters (and confront them nonviolently), as well as search for trapping devices or rifts in the reserve's fence. In 2016, filmmaker Dan Sadgrove visited South Africa to document the group in action—and last month, he released a short documentary chronicling their efforts, called The Rhino Guardians.
“The film in the end wasn’t just about the conservation of the rhinos, it was about the Black Mambas breaking away from a patriarchal society and being courageous in the face of fear,” Sadgrove recently told environmental website Mongabay. “[It's] about them focusing on turning the ship around slowly through educating the youth, hoping they can bring these stories of conservation back into their families and stop poaching from within. I hope these Mambas can inspire other women in their villages to look outside traditional employment.”
You can watch the film below.