All-Female Team Keeps Hunting African Poachers as Cecil Outrage Fades

The Black Mambas regularly face unpredictable safari animals and heavily armed poachers.

After the killing of Cecil the lion garnered national media attention, Zimbabwe put a (very) temporary ban on lion, leopard, and elephant hunting. That ban is now lifted and much of the initial outrage — encapsulated by 3 million tweets and 3.6 million Facebook shares — seems to have faded just as quickly.

Thankfully, anti-poaching teams in neighboring South Africa have a longer memory than American Internet trolls. PBS Newshour recently featured one of these groups: the Black Mambas, named after the deadly African snake, a specially trained all-female group that protects illegally hunted animals like rhino and elephant.

The Black Mambas regularly face unpredictable safari animals and heavily armed poachers.

The Black Mambas are stationed at Kruger Park, a massive natural reserve the size of the state of New Jersey. Their homes are elsewhere, in villages that are economically blighted by high unemployment. On their time off, however, the female patrol officers return home and teach school children about the dangers of poaching. They do this despite the fact that illegal hunting represents an opportunity to make money. And with unemployment levels reaching 80 percent in some villages, the women know those opportunities are rare.

Rangers who protect and manage Kruger Park say the pilot program is an incontrovertible success. Still, it is being put at risk by dwindling national budgets to protect wild animals. If Internet outrage automatically translated into public funds, these patrols would be flooded with resources. As it is, the duration and commitment of that outrage has become a more accurate measure of what is available to actually protect wild animals — which is to say, very little.

Image courtesy of iStock / Marie Holding

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • In some fundamental ways, humans haven't changed all that much since the days when we were sitting around communal fires, telling tales.
  • Although we don't always recognize them as such, stories, symbols, and rituals still have tremendous, primal power to move us and shape our lives.
  • This is no less true in the workplace than it is in our personal lives.

Has a black hole made of sound confirmed Hawking radiation?

One of Stephen Hawking's predictions seems to have been borne out in a man-made "black hole".

Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Surprising Science
  • Stephen Hawking predicted virtual particles splitting in two from the gravitational pull of black holes.
  • Black holes, he also said, would eventually evaporate due to the absorption of negatively charged virtual particles.
  • A scientist has built a black hole analogue based on sound instead of light.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • The word "creative" is sometimes waved around like a badge of honor. We speak of creativity in hushed tones, as the special province of the "talented". In reality, the creative process is messy, open, and vulnerable.
  • For this reason, creativity is often at its best in a group setting like brainstorming. But in order to work, the group creative process needs to be led by someone who understands it.
  • This sense of deep trust—that no idea is too silly, that every creative impulse is worth voicing and considering—is essential to producing great work.