Some of our key program areas include:
Big Life strives to prevent the poaching of elephants and all wildlife within our area of operation, which consists of more than 30 permanent outposts and tent-based field units, tracker dogs, and aerial surveillance. In addition to preventing poaching before it happens, we track and apprehend wildlife criminals and collaborate with local prosecutors to ensure that they are punished to the fullest extent of the law.
One of the largest employers of local Maasai in the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem, our rangers are expertly trained and well-equipped to tackle a variety of wildlife crimes. As a result, poaching of all animals in our area of operation, whether for trafficking or bush meat, has dramatically declined since our inception in 2010.
Big Life works in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service to protect the endangered Eastern black rhino population in the Chyulu Hills area. Together, we conduct extensive foot patrols, aerial surveillance, and monitoring via camera traps. We also provide reliable, year-round access to protected watering points in this remote wilderness area to discourage rhinos from wandering beyond our area of operation in search of water during the dry seasons.
For Maasai herders, their cattle are their livelihood. When livestock falls prey to local predators, like lions or hyenas, the herders are financially disadvantaged and justifiably frustrated. To prevent herders from retaliating with spears or poisoned carcasses, Big Life incentivizes members of our partner communities to protect their livestock through improved fencing and husbandry practices.
In the event that an animal is lost to a predator through no fault of the herder, Big Life will compensate the herder for a percentage of the market value of the animal. This small consolation is significant to the Maasai, and as a result, retaliatory killings have been dramatically reduced in the area, with lion and other predator populations now on the rise.
As the human population increases, so do competing land-uses, such as farming and cattle grazing. Fighting for desperately limited resources like water and grass, humans encroach further and further onto what once were wild lands. With less space to share, people and animals now come into contact at an alarming rate, often with catastrophic and deadly results. Big Life works in partnership with the local Maasai to mitigate the impact of wildlife interactions, such as crop-raiding by hungry elephants, both for the people and the animals.
Fighting wildlife crimes helps the ecosystem today, but winning the hearts and minds of the community and providing a mutual benefit through conservation is the only way to protect wildlife and wild lands far into the future. Big Life invests in the future of participating communities by funding teachers’ salaries, providing scholarship funds for local students, and conducting conservation workshops. When the entire community benefits from conservation efforts and recognizes the value of protecting the ecosystem, enforcement becomes self-policing.
In 2008, the cultural fathers of the new warrior generation asked Maasailand Preservation Trust—now Big Life Foundation—to help them eliminate lion hunting from the Maasai culture. In response, we partnered with the local Maasai to create the first-ever Maasai Olympics: the hunt for medals, not lions. This biennial event is a critically important—and effective—part of the initiative to create a cultural shift in attitudes of the Maasai toward a broader commitment to wildlife and habitat conservation.