Space to Call their Own: Protecting Eselengei, Kenya

Encompassing over 200,000 acres, Eselengei is the northernmost tract of intact wilderness in the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro (Greater Amboseli) ecosystem in southern Kenya. With every year, its importance and the need to conserve it is growing. Over the years, Big Life Foundation’s rangers have played a central role in controlling poaching and making the Greater Amboseli ecosystem a safer place. As a result, animals—especially elephants—are now venturing further from Amboseli National Park and deeper into Eselengei. They are also staying there for longer. This safe zone is not just important for elephants; Eselengei is also a stronghold of the ecosystem’s lion population, as well as home to a wide diversity of other species. However, Eselengei is surrounded by communities that are not always friendly to wildlife. Poachers, targeting bushmeat and sometimes ivory, operate along its northern boundaries, frequently picking off animals in the areas outside of the existing conservancy that lies within Eselengei. In 2018, five elephants were speared to death in a series of horrific events.

In response, Big Life plans to expand its successful wildlife protection and conservation model to Eselengei. This includes adding two permanent ranger outposts, fully equipped and manned by recruits from the Eselengei community, and supported by a Land Cruiser vehicle that will allow for rapid response to emergencies. These rangers will not just work to protect wildlife on Eselengei (often by providing support to the people who share this space), but will also respond when animals cross the invisible barrier into neighboring ‘hostile’ territory.

Also, Big Life will implement its Predator Compensation Fund (PCF) to Eselengei. The fund provides livestock owners with financial compensation for all verified losses of their animals to the ecosystem’s wild predators. This program has been immensely successful over the years, helping to increase the lion population throughout the ecosystem.

 

Maasai Olympics – The hunt for medals not for lions

For centuries the Maasai have practiced a traditional rite of passage to manhood: hunting and killing lions. Today, there are too many people and too few lions. Realising that the traditional Maasai way of reaching manhood will not have a future, the cultural “fathers” asked Big Life Foundation (BLF) to eliminate lion hunting from the Maasai culture.
In response, BLF partnered with the Maasai to conceive and raise funds for this first-ever Maasai Olympics, part of the larger initiative to help to shift the attitudes of the Maasai toward a commitment to wildlife and habitat conservation as a preferred way of life in the 21st century.
This larger initiative consisting of two parts, conservation education and sports.
In order to reach a large audience, a film was produced exclusively for this project and used to teach the young generation that lion killing is no longer culturally acceptable and must stop now, as must the killing of elephants and all wildlife species. Failure to follow the “path of conservation” and reap its economic benefits will result in an unsustainable future of the Maasai people.

Competition in sports starts at local level. The warriors receive basic sports training in six events and compete for selection to one of four teams across the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem.
At regional level, each team will compete in organized competitions against the other three villages.
At ecosystem-wide level, the highly important and most wanted Olympic Day is waiting. This highlight takes place before national and international media, celebrities, government officials, friends, family, and tourists. The four villages will compete for event medals, prizes, and for the overall winners a trophy and prized bull. Thousands of people attend.
Girls being the motivators behind warriors wanting to hunt lion, are also potential conservation advocates and are included in the education program and in two competitions at Olympics Day.