14th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest Sustainable Travel
Big Life Foundation Dog Security Team Bloodhound Bone

Each year I volunteer photography services to a grassroots organization that addresses issues we face as a human race. This year I partnered with Big Life Foundation to assist in bringing awareness to their mission. Big Life Foundation's primary focus is to protect wildlife from poachers. They accomplish this by employing hundreds of Maasai community rangers who utilize 40 permanent outposts and tent-based field units as well as aerial surveillance to protect two million acres of wilderness in the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem of East Africa. Often times when we think about sustainable travel we think about the importance of preserving the natural environment. While this is important, I believe it is equally important to think about how our travel can aid in the current and future needs of the local communities we are visiting.

By working as a volunteer photographer for Big Life Foundation I was able to work closely with the local community, learning about the Maasai culture and supporting a local school and village health center. It is important to me that the people I’m visiting feel supported by my volunteer efforts. I believe grassroots organizations like Big Life Foundation deserve more attention and volunteer support so they may continue to achieve high levels of success in assisting community-oriented initiatives.

This picture of Bonnie and her handler, Mutinda, on a morning walk captures the actions behind Big Life Foundation's mission of saving and preserving wildlife. Bonnie is one of three security dogs that assist the rangers in tracking poachers. In 2016, one of the dogs in the anti-poaching dog unit played a key role in the arrest of a suspected poacher by following the poacher's scent to his village where rangers uncovered ivory in his home.

This photo is a finalist in the Sustainable Travel category of our 14th Annual Photo Contest. See all 70 finalists here.

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 10.2016
Date Uploaded: 11.2016
Photo Location: Mbirikan, Kenya
Copyright: © Matilde Simas
Photo of the Day: 03.15.17
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