On The Front Line:
The Black Mambas, South Africa 

At How Many Elephants, we are passionate about supporting the work of the Black Mambas, South Africa’s all-female anti-poaching team. Our founder, Holly Budge, immersed herself with the Black Mambas, to gain an intimate insight into what motivates these pioneering women. They are protectors, educators and beacons of hope. Armed with pepper spray and handcuffs, they patrol hunting grounds of armed poachers. Hear short stories from Holly’s journal below.

Photo credit: Julia Gunther

On The Front Line:
The Black Mambas, South Africa 

At How Many Elephants, we are passionate about supporting the work of the Black Mambas, South Africa’s all-female anti-poaching team. Our founder, Holly Budge, immersed herself with the Black Mambas, to gain an intimate insight into what motivates these pioneering women. They are protectors, educators and beacons of hope. Armed with pepper spray and handcuffs, they patrol hunting grounds of armed poachers. Hear short stories from Holly’s journal below.

Photo credit: Julia Gunther

“They’re changing attitudes towards the role of women in Africa and beyond”

“It was a privilege to spend time with the Black Mambas and learn what drives and motivates these women to pursue this line of work. Away from their families for weeks at a time, they challenge the traditional status quo. I had the honour of being invited to one of their homes and I was able to see how their job has empowered not only them personally but their families, their communities and beyond. They are changing attitudes towards the role of women in Africa and beyond.”

“They’re changing attitudes towards the role of women in Africa and beyond”

“It was a privilege to spend time with the Black Mambas and learn what drives and motivates these women to pursue this line of work. Away from their families for weeks at a time, they challenge the traditional status quo. I had the honour of being invited to one of their homes and I was able to see how their job has empowered not only them personally but their families, their communities and beyond. They are changing attitudes towards the role of women in Africa and beyond.”

“Becoming a Black Mamba has meant gaining skills, knowledge and hope”

“Women are inherently nurturing creatures. These women nurture the wildlife but also, each other, their families and their communities too. They go through a rigorous selection and training process before becoming a ranger. They are from poor rural communities and are often victims of abuse and disease. Becoming a Black Mamba has empowered them to improve their lives by gaining skills, knowledge and hope. They wear their uniforms with great pride and there’s many young women who aspire to be a Black Mamba.”

Photo credit: Julia Gunther

Photo credit: Julia Gunther

“Becoming a Black Mamba has meant gaining skills, knowledge and hope”

“Women are inherently nurturing creatures. These women nurture the wildlife but also, each other, their families and their communities too. They go through a rigorous selection and training process before becoming a ranger. They are from poor rural communities and are often victims of abuse and disease. Becoming a Black Mamba has empowered them to improve their lives by gaining skills, knowledge and hope. They wear their uniforms with great pride and there’s many young women who aspire to be a Black Mamba.”

“If it’s a lion, make yourself as big as you can, make noise and stand your ground”

“I felt exposed to start with, living in a camp where wild animals can wander through at their leisure! The advice I was given is, “if it’s a lion, make yourself as big as you can, make noise and stand your ground” (stand your ground to a lion?) and if it’s an elephant, “talk to it calmly and get the hell out of there but never run!”. The open air shower was a touch exposing. I didn’t want to shut both eyes whilst washing my hair in case a lion had taken a front row seat.  Thankfully, the reality was no lion, only shampoo in my eyes!”

“If it’s a lion, make yourself as big as you can, make noise and stand your ground”

“I felt exposed to start with, living in a camp where wild animals can wander through at their leisure! The advice I was given is, “if it’s a lion, make yourself as big as you can, make noise and stand your ground” (stand your ground to a lion?) and if it’s an elephant, “talk to it calmly and get the hell out of there but never run!”. The open air shower was a touch exposing. I didn’t want to shut both eyes whilst washing my hair in case a lion had taken a front row seat.  Thankfully, the reality was no lion, only shampoo in my eyes!”

“My go-to ranger’s vocal cues were similar to how I speak to my Jack Russell dog at home”

“Within the first few minutes of our night patrol, we saw four young male lions. They looked mischievous. One was laid down by the passenger’s side, the other two in the bushes and the fourth one walked slowly round the back of our vehicle. My go-to ranger’s vocal cues were similar to how I would speak to my Jack Russell dog at home. “I’m watching you…don’t even think about it..”. Well if he was thinking about dinner, I didn’t want to stick around! Lions strategically work together, so being surrounded didn’t put me at ease. I filmed the ranger as the spotlight darted over her face, revealing her bright red lipstick. These ladies have an element of glamour, but boy, they mean business.”

“My go-to ranger’s vocal cues were similar to how I speak to my Jack Russell at home”

“Within the first few minutes of our night patrol, we saw four young male lions. They looked mischievous. One was laid down by the passenger’s side, the other two in the bushes and the fourth one walked slowly round the back of our vehicle. My go-to ranger’s vocal cues were similar to how I would speak to my Jack Russell dog at home. “I’m watching you…don’t even think about it..”. Well if he was thinking about dinner, I didn’t want to stick around! Lions strategically work together, so being surrounded didn’t put me at ease. I filmed the ranger as the spotlight darted over her face, revealing her bright red lipstick. These ladies have an element of glamour, but boy, they mean business.”

“It felt magical and slightly surreal being out on night patrol with the Black Mambas”

“This sighting was spectacular; A White Rhino. Known for his risky antics, he strolled pass the front of the vehicle, cool, calm and collected. It was made all the more dramatic by the emotion one of the Black Mamba’s displayed. She was barely able to contain her excitement and wonderment. This reinforced the genuine passion she has for the work she is doing. As the tank-like form, partially revealed by the spotlight, varnished almost immediately, I sat on the vehicle roof admiring the moonlight and the beauty of that sight. It felt magical and slightly surreal being out on night patrol with the Black Mambas. I pinched myself.”

“It felt magical and slightly surreal being out on night patrol with the Black Mambas”

“This sighting was spectacular; A White Rhino. Known for his risky antics, he strolled pass the front of the vehicle, cool, calm and collected. It was made all the more dramatic by the emotion one of the Black Mamba’s displayed. She was barely able to contain her excitement and wonderment. This reinforced the genuine passion she has for the work she is doing. As the tank-like form, partially revealed by the spotlight, varnished almost immediately, I sat on the vehicle roof admiring the moonlight and the beauty of that sight. It felt magical and slightly surreal being out on night patrol with the Black Mambas. I pinched myself.”

“The elephants vanished like ghosts”

“The sound of elephants breaking twigs and branches was close by, even though we couldn’t see them. It is incredible how quietly such giants move and at pace too. One of the Black Mambas’ suggested we move to the watering hole as she believed they were heading that way. She was right. When we arrived, it was one of the most spectacular sights. There were 30 elephants or more bathing in the moonlight. It was a spectacular sight and one I will never forget. In my next breath, the elephants vanished like ghosts.”

“The elephants vanished like ghosts”

“The sound of elephants breaking twigs and branches was close by, even though we couldn’t see them. It is incredible how quietly such giants move and at pace too. One of the Black Mambas’ suggested we move to the watering hole as she believed they were heading that way. She was right. When we arrived, it was one of the most spectacular sights. There were 30 elephants or more bathing in the moonlight. It was a spectacular sight and one I will never forget. In my next breath, the elephants vanished like ghosts.”

“That’s a booby trap to keep out unwanted visitors”

“When I arrived at the first picket, the Mambas’ were out on patrol so I visited their Sergeant’s house close by for a coffee. It was the ultimate bachelor pad with guns, ammunition and gadgets everywhere. Shortly after arriving, there was a loud gun shot. My heart leapt out of my chest, ‘What the hell was that?’ I thought, quickly followed by ‘did someone just get shot?!!’. He calmly said, “Oh yeah, that’s a booby trap to keep out unwanted visitors’. As I left, I carefully stepped over a trip wire by the front door.”

“That’s a booby trap to keep out unwanted visitors”

“When I arrived at the first picket, the Mambas’ were out on patrol so I visited their Sergeant’s house close by for a coffee. It was the ultimate bachelor pad with guns, ammunition and gadgets everywhere. Shortly after arriving, there was a loud gun shot. My heart leapt out of my chest, ‘What the hell was that?’ I thought, quickly followed by ‘did someone just get shot?!!’. He calmly said, “Oh yeah, that’s a booby trap to keep out unwanted visitors’. As I left, I carefully stepped over a trip wire by the front door.”

“They literally trust each other with their lives”

“It was a huge privilege to be invited to the local hospital where one of the Black Mambas’ gave birth to a baby boy. There were many more expectant mothers than beds inside the hospital. Unfortunately some women were lying on the floor whilst others were in beds with their newborn babies, some mothers had blood stained gowns. The strong ties formed amongst the Black Mambas was clear to see as they huddled around her bed, welcoming her son into the world. They literally trust each other with their lives and the respect, strength and loyalty I witnessed was humbling.”

“They literally trust each other with their lives”

“It was a huge privilege to be invited to the local hospital where one of the Black Mambas’ gave birth to a baby boy. There were many more expectant mothers than beds inside the hospital. Unfortunately some women were lying on the floor whilst others were in beds with their newborn babies, some mothers had blood stained gowns. The strong ties formed amongst the Black Mambas was clear to see as they huddled around her bed, welcoming her son into the world. They literally trust each other with their lives and the respect, strength and loyalty I witnessed was humbling.”

SUPPORT THE RANGERS

Help empower and support the courageous rangers working tirelessly on the front line in Africa! Every penny raised is accounted for and is making a difference.

Photo credit: ‘Akashinga‘ by Brent Stirton

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