The all-women Black Mamba anti-poaching unit is renowned around the world for their committed efforts to protect South African wildlife, in particular the rhino. Now a film that tells their story is being planned by a production company headed Hollywood actress Jessica Chastain.
The film, a dramatisation of the unit’s story, will be written by Zimbabwean-American actress and writer Danai Gurira, according to a 29 November article on Indiewire.com. Gurira is best known for her role as Michonne in the hit American show The Walking Dead.
The Black Mambas won a United Nations Champions of the Earth award in 2015, and were named the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Best Conservation Practitioner in 2016.
Formed in 2013, the original Black Mambas were made up of six female game rangers. They patrolled the Olifants West nature reserve in Limpopo, part of the larger Balule protected area, including the western boundary of the Kruger National Park.
The team now consists of almost 50 rangers, and continues to train women from the community for the additional units. “Other women want to join us, but we need more funding,” ranger Felicia Mogakane said in an interview with Refinery29.com in November 2016, adding: “If you really want to protect the animals you must have the people to do the hard work.”
Aside from patrolling the reserve, the Black Mambas also do education drives in the area to highlight the benefits of conservation, focusing particularly on the protection of the country’s endangered species, such as elephant, pangolin and rhino, and other high-profile Big Five animals, including lion and buffalo.
They work in team shifts across the park for three weeks at a time, operating from a rudimentary base camp in the bush. They track movements of the animals and look for poachers.
The Black Mambas’ primary role is searching the area for poachers and illegal hunters, eradicating traps and destroying bush-meat kitchens. Between 2013 and 2015, they identified and destroyed 12 poachers’ camps, as well as reduced snaring and poisoning activities by 76%.
Suspicious tracks lead to 2 arrests of bush meat poachers in adjacent farm. Investigation still on-going. pic.twitter.com/G3fxRQNEQe
— Black Mamba APU (@blackmambaapu) November 4, 2015
— Black Mamba APU (@blackmambaapu) September 17, 2015
But poachers’ methods are continually becoming more sophisticated, leading to some significant wildlife losses in the region – this is something the women of the Black Mambas want to make their focus over the next three years.
“The best part of being a Mamba is getting together and encouraging each other to do the work. We support each other and get stronger every day,” ranger Everjoy Mathebula told Refinery29.com.
Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has called the team a shining example of South Africans taking on the responsibilities of protecting the country’s natural heritage. “The country and the world salute these young women who have shown dedication and commitment to the conservation of our natural world.”
No further details have been given about when production will begin on the Black Mambas film.
The scourge of poaching and illegal trade in animals, particularly elephant ivory, is a hot button topic, thanks in part to a new Netflix documentary, The Ivory Game, produced by actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The film has received positive reviews and buzz at top international film festivals.
Watch the trailer below: