UNEP praises SA’s all-female anti-poaching unit (South Africa)


Mel Frykberg, Independent Online

Date Published


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The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has lauded South Africa’s Black Mambas, the first all-female unit of its kind in the world that is fighting poachers on the frontline in the Kruger National Park – unarmed.

Formed by ecologist and head warden at the Balule Nature Reserve Craig Spencer, the Mambas patrol the Kruger Park which borders hundreds of thousands of impoverished people.

UNEP’s Executive Director, Norway’s Erik Solheim said the example set by these courageous young women was an example of how dedicated activists from the local community could help in the fight against poaching, and the illegal trafficking of wildlife, while uplifting their community economically at the same time. Solheim told journalists at a press briefing at the weekend that combined efforts from across the spectrum of society, although currently small could swell into a significant movement and end poaching and illicit wildlife trading. “Just as the anti-apartheid activists had overthrown the former apartheid regime and the American civil rights movement had ended segregation in the US, determined activists in conjunction with others can bring an end to these abominable practises,” said Solheim.

“We need to work together for our children and grandchildren so that they can experience a better world. If we persist the ivory trade will be stamped out,” added Solheim.

CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon added that the war against the threat to wildlife involved everybody from the activists to police, immigrations officers, courts, NGOs, environmentalists, governments and technical and forensic experts. In response to a journalist who questioned CITES’ lack of progress despite continual meetings over the years, Scanlon strongly disagreed. “There is still a lot of work that needs to be done but there has been significant progress economically, politically and environmentally since CoP16,” responded Scanlon.

“There have been various resolutions adopted by the UN in favour of wildlife protection as well as political support from high levels of society including the Duke of Cambridge, who has rallied political and financial support. “This increased political support has led to more finances being made available for the protection of species.

“Furthermore, countries are increasingly turning to CITES for direction on the legal and sustainable trade in wild animals and plants,” Scanlon explained. In turn increasing political and economical support has led to improved technical support, such as improved protection for sharks and stingrays, and moving the monitoring of elephant slaughter to minimising it. Scanlon also pointed out that local communities were being taught about the survival of threatened species while security practises for wildlife protection had been implemented.

“More needs to be done but we are on the right track,” said Scanlon. “This is the largest ever CITES conference since the organisation was formed and I expect there to be robust and intense debates ahead but that is to be expected. “Decisions taken here at CITES will effect wildlife, ecosystems and economies almost immediately,” added Scanlon. – African News Agency (ANA)