All-female Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit in Zimbabwe
Every year, up to 30,000 elephants and thousands of rhinos are poached throughout Africa for their tusks and horns. This ongoing slaughter has pushed big game animal populations to dangerous lows - In Zimbabwe’s Lower Zambezi Valley, an experiment in women’s empowerment is proving that poaching can be curbed and animals can be effectively conserved through community-centric investments.
An anti-poaching unit called the Akashinga (which means “the brave ones” in Shona) has arrested 72 poachers since forming in 2017. In the past, Zimbabwe has struggled to stop poaching, even in protected areas and when making exceptions for trophy hunting. More than 8,000 elephants have been poached in regions throughout the country over the past 16 years, the BBC notes. What makes the Akashinga unit groundbreaking, however, is that it’s made up entirely of women drawn from the most marginalized demographics in Zimbabwe, including single mothers, survivors of sexual abuse, orphans, and widows. The mere existence of the group challenges prevailing gender norms that claim women are incapable of working in male-dominated fields, let alone one as dangerous as anti-poaching, which has seen more than 1,000 rangers killed while on duty over the past decade.