In a private reserve on the fringes of South Africa’s world-famous Kruger National Park, wildlife is watched over by a team of rangers with a difference. Meet the "Black Mambas": the country's first all-female anti-poaching unit. 

Image © Adrienne Pitts Photography

This team of 30-odd women patrol the wilds of Balule Nature Reserve – a 62,000-hectare swathe of bushveld with few barriers separating it from the Kruger Park – searching for human tracks, snares and other suspicious activity. Although they do not make arrests, their presence ensures that the area is better protected and word of their dedication and passion has spread internationally. 

"I've been doing this for 24 years and have never had to raise a weapon to a wild animal," Craig Spencer, the Black Mambas founder and head warden at Balule Nature Reserve told National Geographic in 2017. "The poachers would have to consider defending themselves against these women. Creating orphans and widows is not the answer to this problem. You can’t shoot this problem away. Early detection is their key role."

In addition to the work they do in the field, the black mambas have also become vital role models in their communities, helping to educate the youth and provide alternative career options for many who live in dire circumstances.

As part of their World Ranger Day celebrations, Helping Rhinos published a live Facebook video to give audiences a glimpse into the lives of the Black Mambas. Get to know these brave women, learn how they are coping in these trying times and experience a window into life on wild side in this feature-length video (you can watch it on Facebook here).

Image © Lee-Ann Olwage