2016 / Editorial / Environmental

The Black Mambas

  • Photographer
    Julia Gunther

It’s full moon in the Balule Nature Reserve, a wildlife sanctuary of more than 400 square kilometers, which lies next to Kruger National Park, South Africa’s most famous reserve. The ‘full moon period’, which usually lasts a week, is the ideal time for poachers. They use the extra light to set their snares and traps and spot their prey. But they are not the only hunters in this park. The Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit is the brainchild of Balule head warden and founder Craig Spencer. To ensure that rhino’s aren’t hunted to extinction, he decided to use women as scouts instead of men with guns, in the hope of gaining the upper hand in the war between conservationists and poachers. This might sound contradictory, but it’s clear the solution does not only lie in the use of heavily armed soldiers, drones and GPS locators. The poachers just keep on coming. It’s time for a new approach, and the Black Mambas are it. The Black Mambas is the 6th instalment of Julia Gunther’s ongoing project Proud Women of Africa - a collection of short visual stories that portrays the daily lives of remarkable women living or working in Africa. Remarkable because they fought, survived, overcame or simply ignored the obstacles that life has thrown at them. Remarkable because they never gave up. All of the women in my pictures have suffered in some way: they’ve been ostracised by society, are desperately poor, or have experienced terrible injustice. But they are also all still proud. Proud of who they are, of their lives and the love they represent.