South Africa’s Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit, a mostly female ranger group, received the Champions of the Earth award, the United Nation’s (UN) highest environmental prize, on Tuesday, according to the UN.
The 26-member unit patrols the Balule Private Game Reserve, which lies within the Greater Kruger National Park. The 2 million-hectare national park is home to leopards, lions, elephants, cheetahs, and hippos, as well as the highly endangered black rhino.
The Black Mamba Unit works to stop bush meat and rhino poachers, which has become increasingly difficult in South Africa, where 1,215 rhinos were killed in 2014 alone, according to the UN. Since its founding in 2013, the unit has reduced snaring by 76 percent, helped arrest six poachers, and destroyed more than ten poachers’ camps and three bush meat kitchens, according to the Black Mamba website.
“I am not afraid. I know what I am doing, and I know why I am doing it,” Leitah Mkhabela, a member of the Black Mamba rangers, told the UN. “Animals deserve to live. When demand ends, the killing will end. Say yes to life. Say no to illegal rhino horn and elephant ivory.”