The Black Mambas

It’s a full moon on 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 rhinos and other rare wildlife weren’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 counter-intuitive, but it was obvious that the solution to this decades-long struggle does not only lie in the use of heavily-armed soldiers, drones and GPS locators. Spencer saw that the poachers just kept on coming and that it was time for a new approach: the Black Mambas are it.

Proud Women of Africa

“The Black Mambas” is the 6th installment of Julia Gunther’s ongoing project Proud Women of Africa.

Proud Women of Africa is a collection of short visual stories that portray 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 these pictures have suffered in some way: they’ve been ostracized by society, are desperately poor, or have experienced terrible injustice. But they remain proud: proud of who they are, of their lives and the love they represent.

—Julia Gunther