Julia Gunther: The Black Mambas

The Black Mambas are an almost exclusively female anti poaching unit which operates, unarmed, in Balule Nature Reserve, near Kruger National Park, in north-eastern South Africa. They are trained in anti-poaching and survival skills and are taught to identify and track humans and animals, how to blend in with their surroundings and how to avoid confrontations. Their training is crucial as the animals they track are wild, and poachers shoot to kill.
Their anti-poaching strategy includes ‘visual policing’ through daily boundary patrols which are conducted on foot during first light and by vehicle at last light, manning observation and listening posts stationed in critical areas such as known entry and exit points, and monitoring popular waterholes for signs of poisoning. The Black Mambas also live in a series of compounds inside the reserve, which affords them a constant presence in the park.
Awarded with the UN’s top environmental award, “Champions of the Earth”, the Black Mambas act as role models in their own communities (where many of the poachers live). As women and mothers, they command a form of respect that the heavily armed, most male anti-poaching units, do not.
Julia Gunther is a German photo artist who specialises in documentary projects. Her work explores themes of representation, gender, visual identity and social activism, specifically, the role of women in society. Her projects often consist of a mix of portraits and investigative images, with a strong focus of portraying her subjects as they would like to be seen.
Website: juliagunther.com