Big Life Foundation
Friederike von Houwald – Basel Zoo, Switzerland
Over the years, an increase in East Africa's human population and activity has placed immense pressure on natural resources. This has, in turn, resulted in escalating poaching activity and human–wildlife conflict: predators killing livestock, elephants damaging crops and threatening human life; and at all times humans, wildlife, livestock and agriculture competing for limited natural resources.
Big Life Foundation began as Maasailand Preservation Trust (MPT) in the early 1990s when founder Richard Bonham began to see an increase in poaching. Beginning with just 10 community rangers, Big Life now has over 250 rangers, more than 120 education scholarships, a livestock compensation programme and a Moran (Maasai warrior) Education Initiative and Maasai Olympics.
Big Life's mission is to use innovative conservation strategies and collaborate closely with local communities, partner NGOs, national parks and government agencies, to protect and sustain East Africa's wild lands and wildlife, including one of the greatest populations of elephants left in East Africa. Conservation supports the people and the people support conservation. Big Life's vision is to establish a successful holistic conservation model in the Amboseli–Tsavo ecosystem that can be replicated across the African continent.
Big Life focuses on community-based programmes to ensure that communities realise and receive benefits from wildlife, with the aim to do the following:
- To enhance the viability of wildlife and habitats, particularly threatened species, across the Amboseli–Tsavo ecosystem.
- To secure long-term sustainability of the project by generating benefits from conservation for the local communities through employment and increased tourism.
- Through wildlife-related benefits, to inculcate values of wildlife conservation integrity and universal responsibility in wise use of natural resources and present environmental degradation in the ecosystem.
- To address human–wildlife conflicts among Maasai pastoralists and farmers in order to safeguard the wildlife and its irreplaceable habitat.