When we sat down to conceptualise The Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year, one of the major drivers was to create a platform that allowed the public to learn about some of the unsung heroes that work within the Mara ecosystem. Everyday, incredible men and women do selfless work in harsh conditions to keep the Mara healthy and protected.
As travellers and photographers flock to one of Africa’s great wildlife reserves, very few are aware of what it takes behind the scenes to maintain this wilderness area. The human population is exploding and this growth puts pressure on the animals and the landscape.
We invited six organisations to become beneficiaries of the competition entry fees, and made the commitment that every cent would go to boots-on-the-ground work. When you enter the photographic competition, you get to pick the cause that you think is most deserving of your contribution. In addition to raising funds, we also wanted to raise awareness for some of these initiatives. We wanted to use this as a mechanism to showcase just a few of the incredible people that dedicate their lives to the Mara. I would like to start off with the Mara Elephant Project.
Decades of ivory poaching nearly decimated elephant populations in the Maasai Mara. In 2011, the Mara Elephant Project was established as a lobbying call to fight poaching. What started as counter-poaching group, has now moved into community engagement, because all the people that live in and around the Mara are stakeholders in protecting elephants. The Mara Elephant Project aims to get everyone involved in elephant conservation.
“This is a war of space, with people carving out a living in this area”, says Marc Goss, CEO of the Mara Elephant Project. As traditional movement corridors are blocked, elephant families are forced to move closer to human settlements. Human-wildlife conflict is on the rise. The Mara Elephant Project employs local people and trains them to deal with tracking elephants, reducing poaching and combatting human-elephant conflict.
All their staff are seen as first responders and conduct basic first aid to all wildlife-related incidents in the communities. Since the founding of the project, elephant poaching has dropped massively and the various rangers can continue to work together with relevant authorities to reduce conflict and protect the iconic African elephant. When you protect the elephant, you protect everything else that lives in the same area as this keystone species.
Here is a short video we put together featuring Wilson Sairou, Field Administrator of the Mara Elephant Project.
To enter your photograph into the photographic competition, be sure to visit the competition website. Entrants stand a chance to win $10,000 in cash, and through their entries contribute to the protection of the Maasai Mara. This is just a small way of saying thank you to the silent heroes.
This year's photographic submissions have been of an incredibly high quality. Below are some of the winning images for the first six months of 2019.
Filed under: The Mara
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