Adventure for The Big Life Foundation
In November 2016, OmLuxe Retreats hosted a photography expedition and yoga safari in Kenya. We worked to raise money and support for a foundation in East Africa raising awareness around elephant poaching and ivory trafficking.
The Big Life Foundation recognizes that sustainable conservation can be achieved through community-based collaborative approaches, which drives their mission, “on the ground in Africa, partnering with communities to protect nature for the benefit of all.” It is through innovative strategies focused on conservation, and collaboration with local communities, partners, national parks, and agencies with Big Life work to protect and sustain East Africa’s wildlife and lands, including elephants.
Co-founded in September 2010 by photographer Nick Brandt, conservationist Richard Bonham, and entrepreneur Tom Hill, Big Life was the first organization in East Africa to establish coordinated cross-border anti-poaching operations. Over time, Big Life has established a successful holistic conservation model that can be replicated across the African continent. In fact, Big Life has partnered with local communities to protect over 1.6 million acres of wilderness in the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem of East Africa.
Over the past twelve years there has been a massive increase in demand for ivory from China and the Far East. In fact, Ivory prices have soared from $200 a pound in 2004 to in excess of $1500 a pound in 2019. Some experts estimate that as much as 10% of Africa’s elephant population (35,000 elephants a year) are being slaughtered.
Just as highly sought are powdered rhino horn, which is now more expensive than gold. Also, of concern are the mere 20,000 lions left in Africa. This is a staggering 75% drop in just the last 20 years. This includes lions and tigers who roam outside protected lands, who are often poisoned when they roam outside those borders then body parts are sold for China.
One of the significant movements of Big Life includes their expansion of employment, which numbers in the hundreds of local Maasai rangers, with more than 30 permanent outposts and tent-based field units, 14 patrol vehicles, 2 tracker dogs, and 2 planes for aerial surveillance. These outposts and units protect the land from poachers and traffickers and have tracked and apprehend wildlife criminals and collaborate with local prosecutors to ensure they are punished to the fullest extent of the law. Rangers from local Maasai tribes are trained and equipped to handle an array of wildlife crimes, which has dramatically declined poaching and trafficking since 2010. This includes over 2,000 arrests and the confiscation of over 3,000 weapons and poaching tools.
Big Life also focuses on additional areas of concern, including land use, protection of predators (lions, cheetahs, leopards, and others), and building local communities through education, employment, schools, healthcare, and the Maasai Olympics. To learn more about Big Life and their sustainable impact and crucial efforts for East Africa, visit their site at biglife.com.