Conservation and Community

Pondoro has partnered and became a sponsor of the world famous all woman Black mamba anti-poaching team and their affiliate project the Bush Babies Environmental and Awareness Program.

Who are the Black Mambas?

 The Black Mamba APU was founded by Transfrontier Africa and was created to protect Olifants West section of Balule Nature Reserve bordering Kruger National Park. Starting off with a team of 6 the Black Mamba APU has grown to cover the entire Balule area. The Black Mambas is the first of its kind in that most their teams are women. They operate in an open system that is directly connected to the Kruger National Park. They are therefore custodians of the wild animals that roam freely throughout Balule Nature Reserve. They maintain and protect the western boundary fence of the Greater Kruger National Park, a significant barrier between human-wildlife conflict and poachers entering the protected areas network.

Anti-Poaching is a major need in the area. The reserve is constantly plagued by rhino poachers and bush-meat poachers. Apart from antelopes other endangered species such as wild dogs and cheetah are also often the victims to snaring. The Black Mamba APU search and destroy poacher’s camps, wire-snares and bush-meat kitchens every day. Aerial support, specialist dogs, early detection and rapid response is all that stands between the wildlife and poachers.

Rhinos

Rhino poaching has escalated dramatically in recent years and is being driven by the demand for rhino horn in Asian countries, particularly Vietnam and China. Although there is no scientific proof of its medicinal value, rhino horn is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine. Commercial poaching has become big business, thanks to the boom in populations and the “new wealth” in Asia.

Rhinos were once abundant throughout Africa and Asia with an approximated worldwide population of 500 000 in the early twentieth century. Despite intensive conservation efforts, poaching of this iconic species has dramatically increased, pushing the remaining rhinos closer and closer towards extinction. South Africa is home to most rhinos left in the world and is heavily targeted by poachers. Rhino poaching has now reached a crisis point, and if the killing continues at the same rate, we could see rhino deaths overtaking births in 2016-2018, meaning rhinos will go extinct in the very near future.

The Western black rhino was already declared extinct by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) in 2011, with the primary cause identified as poaching. All five remaining rhino’s species are listed on the IUCN Redlist species, with three out of five species classified as critically endangered.

  • Three rhinos are poached a day in South Africa for their horns.
  • Total number of Rhinos poached in South Africa –

In 2015: 1175

In 2016 : 1102

Black mamba successes

The Black Mambas have identified and destroyed over 12 poachers’ camps and 3 bush meat kitchens within the “buffer-zone” as well as reduced snaring and poisoning activities by 76% within their area of operation since their deployment in 2013.

The Bush Baby environmental Education Program

Babies Environmental Education Program is an environmental awareness program that is conducted at primary schools in the communities surrounding Greater Kruger National Park. With 10 currently active schools and a total of 870 learners, the Black Mambas through the Bush Babies Environmental Education Program are aiming to create an environmentally literate community. The program is divided into 4 category themes:

  • Basic ecology (grass, trees, soils, environment, water etc.)
  • Friends of the rhino (mammals, reptiles, birds, insects etc.)
  • Tour my world
  • Protectors of the rhinos (Black Mamba APU)

The schools are visited on a weekly basis and a different aspect based on the theme of the day is discussed to familiarize the learners with their natural environment to emphasize the importance to conserve the environment for future generations. With the Tour my World theme, Transfrontier Africa volunteers from around the world are taken to the classroom where they teach the Bush Babies about their home countries including facts such as the climate, animals and special features.

Black Mambas are not only anti-poaching rangers, but mothers who know how to nurture a child to understanding the basics of life thus helping them understand the importance of looking after our environment.

  • The star pupil of the Bush Baby environmental program will also be hosted at Pondoro for a 2 week period where he/she will be shadowing our staff and get an intimate view of what goes on behind the scenes of a commercial safari lodge.
  • Pondoro is very proud to announce that we are a personal sponsor of one of the black mamba ladies called Collet with all fund going directly to the Black mambas. We trust that she and her colleagues will do us proud.

Pondoro has allowed 2 camps on their property to be used for conservation, research and anti-poaching purposes. 

  • The Nonwane hilltop camp is used by York Private Nature Reserve, a region of Balule Nature Reserve. This is used as accommodation for the York game guards. Great vistas and a central location aids as deterrent for poacher’s and provide a fast response to any illegal activities.
  • The Nonwane main camp is used by Transfrontier Africa who founded the Black Mamba Anti-poaching unit and the Bush Babies Environmental and Awareness Program. The Bush baby Environmental Officer, the Black Mamba Project Manager and the rhino tracking technicians are staying here. World renowned researchers and Professors are also staying from time to time at the camp while conducting their research.

This includes:              

  1. Western Kentucky University: Dr. Michael Stokes; Professor, Wildlife Ecology; Department of Biology; Western Kentucky University Professor Mike Stokes is an authority on wildlife management in the African Savannah and spends most of his time in Kenya and South Africa, working with tribes to reduce conflict with wildlife. Research focuses on “Vegetation mapping and investigation into habitat selection for mega-herbivores which tries to understand why certain large animals such as buffalo and rhino will prefer certain parts of Balule. This will help us to understand the ecological carrying capacity for Balule, as well as show which parts of Balule are more suitable for endangered species such as black rhino and sable antelope. How big can we expect our black rhino population to grow? Can we sustain big herbivores on Balule for their full life cycle, or will they need to visit other parts of the Greater Kruger from time to time?
  2. University of Arizona: John L. Koprowski, Professor and Associate Director; School of Natural Resources & the Environment; Wildlife Conservation and Management Professor John Koprowski is the world’s leading authority on squirrels. His research on Balule is investigating the role that squirrels and other rodents play in the dispersal, protection and predation of the seeds of trees that are being impacted on by elephants. If an elephant pushes a big tree down, will a seed grow and takes its place? Or, are rodents eating all the seeds?
  3.  Mark G. Wright Ph.D. Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences; CTAHR, University of Hawaii at Manoa and Dr. Michelle Henley Ph.D. Elephants Alive and Save the Elephants; APNR Principle Elephant                     Researcher. Dr. Mark Wright is an entomologist who is currently investigating the use of honey bee pheromones as a tool to manage elephants and prevent them from damaging water-pipes, fences and raiding crops. During drought conditions, elephants seek the green vegetation inside lodge environments and private houses. Often they will break into farms outside the Greater Kruger and damage crops and threaten lives. Elephants are naturally afraid of bees and Dr. Michelle Henley of the celebrated organisation “Save the Elephants” and Elephants Alive, is investigating how bees can be used to effectively manage human / wildlife conflict an protecting elephants at the same time.
  4.  Dr. Tom Tochterman Ph. D. Rhino Mercy; Seattle USA; Balule Nature Reserve Dr. Tom Tochterman is a leader in social impacts of wildlife exploitation. How does the poaching of Africa’s wildlife affect the local communities living on the boundaries of our national parks? What can be done, what is already being done and how can we ensure that the local tribal communities develop a patriotic attitude to the wildlife. Dr. Tochterman was also instrumental in establishing the Black Mamba All-Women Anti-Poaching Unit and has research extensively in the region.

Pondoro Ranger Training school

All Pondoro guides and trackers have at least 10 years experience in the bush with most more than 20 years. Finding and learning the habits of animals cannot be taught in the classroom and we believe that this experience and a great temperament are the 2 most important qualities that makes for a good guide. The rest can be learned in a classroom. For this we have the Pondoro Ranger Academy where our guides are trained by Robbie Prehn the owner who has more than 20 years of practical guiding experience. Animals, birds and all the smaller stuff are covered in detail during weekly training sessions with certificates handed out as each individual progress through the different stages.

Waitress training school

All waitresses go through a rigorous and detailed in-house training excercise doen by experts on the field. Diplomas required upon completion set a very high bar and acts as a career launching tool for many.

Children of Pondoro staff also join the Bush babies for their holiday program.