Kenya: Big Life Foundation
The Big Life Foundation works with the Maasai to protect the wild lands of the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem and its elusive, black rhino population, becoming the largest single employer in the region.
The Chyulu Hills National Park is among the richest areas for wildlife in Africa. A long range of volcanic hills, its peaks and valleys provide water and shelter to wildlife, people and livestock including threatened species such as elephant, cheetah, leopard, African wild dog and giant hog. Animals migrate here in search of water and browse in the dry seasons. As human populations have grown, pasture for grazing has shrunk.
In the 1970s, Kenya’s rhinos suffered heavy losses to poaching, with a small, fragment of Easten black rhinos surviving in the remote Chyulu Hills. Poaching continues to be a constant threat for rhinos and elephants in the area.
How is the Big Life Foundation tackling this problem?
Big Life Foundation works in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service to protect the endangered Eastern black rhino population in the Chyulu Hills area. They conduct extensive foot patrols, aerial surveillance, and monitoring via camera traps. They also provide reliable, year-round access to protected watering points in this remote wilderness area, to discourage rhinos from wandering beyond the area of operation in search of water during the dry seasons.
The programme also strives to prevent poaching of other wildlife by using more than 40 permanent outposts and tent-based field units, tracker dogs, and aerial surveillance. They work and collaborate with local prosecutors to ensure that criminals are punished to the fullest extent of the law. Big Life Foundation also runs predator protection schemes and other initiatives to stop wildlife conflict with the local communities. The programme is one of the largest employers of local Maasai in the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem providing a much needed reliable income for many local people.
We are protecting one of the last truly wild rhino populations in Kenya – and Africa. Our funding is focused on helping the rhino monitors keep track of the population and their breeding, not easy when these elusive creatures are often never seen through the dense, impenetrable undergrowth.
The population may be just a fragment of its former size, but the wider ecosystem of the Chyulu Hills is perfect rhino habitat and could feasibly become home to a much larger population.
We aim to help build the population, increase its genetic diversity and therefore its fertility and resilience to disease, and – in the future – see Kenya’s wider rhino population thriving.