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Meet The Black Mambas, A Women-Only Ranger Team Working To Preserve African Wildlife

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. 

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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. 

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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.”

Some Of The Most Breathtaking Places To See Wildflowers In The US

With the Covid-19 pandemic finally beginning to reach it’s long-winded end with the release of multiple vaccines, many are ready to return to their normal lives. Many aren’t going to be rushing to the airport anytime soon, however, a lot of people are ready to begin traveling across the country in a safe way as more and more people get vaccinated. 

Below is a list of some of the most spectacular locations to see a variety of vibrant wildflowers throughout the United States. Many individuals are opting to go on road trips as the weather gets warmer and the country begins to reopen, here’s some of the most popular destinations that US residents will be heading to in the coming months: 

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Texas: From March to May Texas is known for having spectacular fields full of colorful spring flowers. Texas Hill Country is one of the most famous parts of the state for flower viewing due to its prominent Indian paintbrushes, pink evening primroses, daisies, winecups, prairie verbenas, and golden eye phlox populations. The 80-mile loop from Brenham to Chappell Hill is also known for its intense and vibrant meadows full of purple coneflowers, verbenas, beardtongues, skullcaps, prairie parsley, yellow wild indigo, blue-eyed grasses, blanket flowers, and more.

South Dakota: South Dakota offers a wide variety of wildflower destinations alongside the multitude of other national monuments present in the state. Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, and the Crazy Horse Memorial all contain some of the nation’s most spectacular views. The Badlands National Park is known for having some of the country’s most natural scenery in the spring and summer, including the prairie coneflowers, Woods’ roses, and Rocky Mountain blazing stars.

Florida: According to travel journalist Skye Sherman, “while they’re not exactly wildflowers, South Florida’s tabebuia trees (also known as trumpet trees) are still a sight to behold. Each spring, the trees erupt in clouds of yellow — sunny as the state itself — or a light pastel pink that perfectly captures the spirit of springtime. Head to Palm Beach starting in March to spot these colorful blooms.

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California: California is constantly blooming, it just depends on where you go and what the time of year is. February through April is known to be the best time to find the state really covered in wildflowers and other exotic plant life. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Carlsbad Flower Fields are the best places to take in the golden state’s beauty. 

Colorado:  Colorado is ideal for a summer hiking trip because not only is the weather glorious, but trails across the state are surrounded by a rainbow of wildflowers. Head to Crested Butte, considered to be the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” for the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival and great hiking opportunities, or Steamboat Springs to spot the Colorado blue columbine and red Indian paintbrush on the trails,” according to Sherman.

Montana: Prairie and Alpine wildflowers saturate the grounds of the Glacier National Park every year from June to July. The one month residency makes Montana one of the most popular summer travel spots in the US. In general more than 1,000 breeds of wildflowers grow in the Glacier National Park throughout the summer, so you’re guaranteed some of the most beautiful views you’ve ever seen should you take the trip.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Among Growing List Of National Parks Closing Due To Covid-19 Concerns

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks have officially been closed down until further notice due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The two are just a couple of examples of the thousands of national landmarks, monuments, and cultural establishments that have been indefinitely closed down due to ongoing public health concerns. 

The closings come as a direct response to the potential risk of exposure to COVID-19, which as we know is an extremely contagious virus. Public access to the National Park Services throughout the United States were already limited, however, officials were trying to keep them open for as long as possible to motivate people to still get out of their house and move around, just at a safe distance from everyone else. In fact, a major part of the initial social distancing initiative did encourage people to go outside and go for a walk while maintaining a safe distance of at least eight feet from everyone else. 

Now, local and state officials alike have been enforcing that all national parks, and local ones as well, be closed to the public. According to the official statement from Yellowstone, all highways, roads, state boundaries, and any “facilities that support life safety and commerce” that are technically a part of national park boundaries will still remain open. 

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“The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks. We are committed to continued close coordination with our state and local partners as we progress through this closure period and are prepared when the timing is right to reopen as quickly and safely as possible,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail in the statement.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton are two of the nation’s most popular parks, both are visited by about 4 million people every year. While they may have announced their indefinite closings, there’s still no official national shutdown on all of the 419 national park sites in the US. The national park systems in the US cover about 85 million acres of land throughout all 50 states and several territories under America’s jurisdiction. 

However, it wouldn’t be surprising if a national shutdown is what comes next in terms of restrictions to stop the spreading of COVID-19. So far, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is America’s most popular national park, recently announced that they could be closing all surrounding park areas until the beginning of April “in a continuing effort to support federal, state, and local efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

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Rocky Mountain National Park, Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, and the Washington Monument are a few more examples of National landmarks/parks that have also officially closed, most of which claim that they’ll be reopened to the public in April, however, as we’ve learned, this is a day-by-day pandemic. 

Visitors to the national park sites throughout America give about $20 billion to the park systems every year through their contributions upon visiting. Typically, national park’s don’t charge any entrance fees, however, many donate upon entry because they know that the money goes back into the local regional communities. 

Visitor contributions have led to over 300,000 new jobs, about $13 billion in labor income, and a total of $40 billion in economic output; output meaning the money that was indirectly put into other markets and industries thanks to tourists visiting national parks. These stats have made a lot of people within the park service worried about the state of their industry.

“With 18.2 million visitors annually across 14 different NPS sites, it’s impossible to overstate the impact these sites have on all sorts of communities across our state. The NPS sites are the main reason people are visiting, which leads to $1.3 billion in spending and more than 20,000 jobs statewide. For many rural communities that are struggling to maintain their economic vitality, these sites are crucial to their ability to survive,” said Wit Tuttell, Director of Visit North Carolina.