These Women #BreakTheBias, Stopping Threats and Protecting RhinosNOOR BOULOS
As part of ThreatQuotient’s month-long celebration of women in cybersecurity, today we are recognizing International Women’s Day and this year’s theme – #BreakTheBias. Specifically, we want to tell you about an impressive group of women located in Africa who are “breaking the bias” in a truly meaningful way. And it just so happens the work they do involves a twist on stopping threats. But first, some background.
For a decade now, an organization called Helping Rhinos has been doing amazing work helping rhinos survive at sustainable levels in their natural habitat. Rhinos have been on the planet for 50 million years, but between poaching and habitat loss their population has dwindled – from 500,000 at the turn of the 20th century to only 27,000 today.
ThreatQuotient has been an official supporter of Helping Rhinos for three years. One of the organization’s field partners that we also support is South Africa’s first all-female anti-poaching unit called the Black Mambas, and Nocry Mzimba, now a Sergeant in the Black Mambas. Talk about women breaking the bias!
These 36 African women patrol 50,000 hectares of the Balule Nature Reserve, part of the Great Kruger National Park (NP) which is home to the largest population of rhino in the world. Sadly, this also makes the Park one of the world’s largest targets for poaching attacks, with up to 11 different poaching gangs at any one time operating in the area. While the number of rhinos poached has been steadily dropping since the height of 2014, and reached a 10-year low of 394 in 2020 during Covid, activity is on the increase again. The overall number of rhinos poached in 2021 stands at 451, with a sharp spike in December 2021 when 23 rhinos were killed over a 36-hour period. However, thanks to the anti-poaching presence, poaching declined in Kruger NP in 2021. There were also 189 arrests made relating to rhino poaching during that time, with 40% from incidents occurring in Kruger NP.
Every day the Black Mambas walk 20 kilometers, checking perimeter fences for signs of intrusion and alerting armed patrol units if they detect suspicious activity. They also dispose of snares they find and release rhinos and other trapped animals before they are harmed. For example, they recently found an ensnared kudu (a type of antelope) and were able to quickly release and save it. The Black Mambas’ un-armed patrols and programs to raise awareness for the impact of conservation on quality of life (for humans and rhinos) are critical to reduce poaching. But they must remain vigilant to discourage criminals who engage in this illegal practice.
Craig Spencer, Founder of The Black Mambas cautions, “Clearly, despite the respite that Covid brought us, there is a clear increase in poacher activity and effort…Although the overall trend is still positive, the reality is that the rhino population is not able to sustain the poacher pressure. Populations have been drastically reduced and therefore every rhino counts, now more than ever.”
Fortunately, as COVID wanes, some of Helping Rhinos’ community-based initiatives in the field are now able to resume. With schools back in session and classes in full swing, so too is the Black Mambas Bush Babies program. Working with children between the ages of 7 and 17, the program is focused on bringing up the next generation of conservationists in the local community. Over 2,000 children across 10 schools have been taught about the different behaviors or wildlife, how to protect them, and have been introduced to ecology.
Helping Rhinos has a uniquely forward-thinking approach to conservation and ensuring the long-term survival of rhinos in their natural habitat. To mark their 10th anniversary, a new film on Helping Rhinos is being released today and available for viewing here. We applaud Helping Rhinos’ commitment to their mission and celebrate how the Black Mambas #BreakTheBias.
Last year, through generous donations, the Black Mambas’ new operations center opened, complete with computers, radios and grid maps. Interested in supporting the Black Mambas as they continue to #BreakTheBias? Click here to learn how you can help.