June 23rd is known as World Female Ranger Day as a means of raising awareness and funding to support the women within the industry who are working hard to preserve the Earth. Only 11% of the world’s global ranger population is made up of women, so the campaign, co-founded by adventurers Holly Budge and Margot Dempsey, works to shed light on the inequalities that exist within the industry.
The Black Mambas are a women-only team of rangers who work in Africa to preserve the dwindling wildlife population throughout the continent. The group was founded in 2013 when rhino poaching was reaching an unprecedented high in South Africa.
The group itself is made up of 36 women all from local tribes who are armed only with pepper spray. They work everyday to patrol the Kruger National Park’s fence lines for unwelcome intruders, as well as checking camera traps and finding snare traps. The group was founded out of this particular national park, which is why they spend a majority of their time there.
Nkateko Mzimba joined the team back in 2014 when they began more community outreach efforts as well. Mzimba claimed that the group began connecting with local schools to teach kids about the importance of protecting the Earth and its many inhabitants.
“We ask our community to change, to protect wildlife for their kids, trying our best to show we love and support them, and we give them food.”
The Black Mambas have to date reduced bushmeat poaching by 89% and virtually eliminated the use of snare traps. While they themselves are not armed beyond pepper spray, should they come across packers with weapons, they can easily call for armed backup from local authorities.
“The Black Mambas support me. I am here because of them, and I want to empower them. Women were always undermined. Now, they see the importance of us in the bush. When people offer bribes, we say no – we don’t share information. Some say this is a man’s job, but we’ve proved that we can do this,” Mzimba explained.
In Zimbabwe, the first all-female anti-poaching unit was recently established in 2017. Akashinga and the Black Mamba’s amazing efforts in Africa is actually the reason Budge and Dempsey established World Female Ranger Day in the first place.
“I wanted to bring their stories to the world. Some are AIDS orphans, some come from abusive marriages. Now, they’re breadwinners and their kids go to school. But other women don’t have this success, and World Female Ranger Day will bring their challenges to light.”
“I felt privileged to see their work firsthand. It was like a war zone – the Akashingas all carried AK47s, with wild animals and signs of poachers around us. It made me appreciate how dangerous their work is. They’re not playing rangers. This is real, very real,” Budge explained.
World Female Ranger Day works to provide an international forum for rangers everywhere to share advice and offer support.
“We offer grants for improved facilities and equipment, along with annual awards. These rangers are fantastic role models, inspiring and empowering women with a strong message that anything can be overcome with training, self-belief, determination, and resilience,” says Budge.
“On World Female Ranger Day, we’re role models to ladies out there who feel underrated. We need a day to celebrate us. And they need to see us, to be inspired.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.