Damari McBride is a portrait photographer from Brooklyn who spoke about his experience of documenting the complexity and communities that are at the heart of the poaching crisis within South Africa on the ” Storytelling For Change” webinar series. Below are some excerpts from his presentation, in which McBride talks about his work with the non-profit organization The Nourish Foundation and the experience he had as part of the Photographers Without Borders documentary ” Beyond the Gun.”

Danielle Da Silva: Do you have any information about the organizations you collaborated on your anti-poaching photographic mission within South Africa?

Damari McBride Nourish is an organization which is trying to address the problem of poaching by tackling the problem of poverty.

It is believed that education and training are crucial in order to stop poaching. We visited one of the schools where Nourish is working within the Province of Limpopo. It was fascinating to see what students were doing in order to fight climate change and protect the natural environment. They were extremely helpful and self-sufficient.

Da Silva It’s an excellent illustration of the variety of actions Nourish is doing to get kids into contact with the animals and in a positive and positive way. By fostering compassion and love through education, children have other options than poaching. I recall that a few employees from Nourish staff saying that If they didn’t work there, they’d become poachers.

Damari as well as I collaborated with an anti-poaching group known as Protrack during our time in South Africa. When we think of anti-poaching, we imagine guns. Vincent Barkas, the founder of Protrack, has said that we’ve stopped poaching and poachers wrong. We must place our people first instead of placing our animals first. Do you have a story to share about your meeting with Vincent, as well as what you learned from your conversation with him?

McBride It was my impression that that they’re hiring local people to work in the anti-poaching division for them to have a better chance to make cash, which is why poaching occurs. If I’m in need of money, I’m searching for ways to obtain it. In this instance, it’s an alternative. Poachers hire Black individuals to earn the promise of a huge reward that ultimately benefits people who are in the upper tier of the food chain of wildlife trade.

Poachers are actively exploiting massive inequalities that is afflicting Black Africans in the area. Poaching isn’t an easy task. The public is taking a huge risk by entering parks at night in order to locate the rhino and kill it, then take its horn, and then bring it back alive. It’s extremely risky. Elephants, for instance, tend to be extremely aggressive during night and may attack people. Therefore, poachers risk many things, yet they must choose between sacrificing their families or meeting their requirements for a particular period of time. It’s difficult to comprehend that the decision to poach depends on people’s desire to survive, or helping save wildlife. They’re thinking, “While I admire and want to save wildlife, providing for my family is more important for me than the animals.” It’s a difficult situation.

Da Silva: This is definitely a complex issue, you’d think, but is it? Apartheid created game reserves to allow wealthy whites–to visit and view the animals. However, it was usually at the expense of communities that were local to the Black communities’ land. Segregation, colonialism, and Apartheid all had an effect on separating the people who cared for the soil from wildlife. This led to economic inequality that led people to be at risk of poaching. One rhino horn is worth an amount of up to one million Rand, which is greater than what a person can earn every year from farming.

McBride The median salary of an average Black farmer family of approximately 5 000 Rand per month, which is just under 400 Canadian dollars.

Da SilvaHow do you feel when the project was completed? What do you hope your photos and your story will be a positive influence going into the future?

McBride This project has made me aware of the social problems and voicing my opinion about the issue of inequalities. I was once quite shy about this. However, it has pushed me to make people be honest or, in the event that they believe there’s something wrong and they are not sure, to voice their opinion about it. The trip has made me think about the environment and the planet in a new way. As a result of my work, I hope that it will inspire people to start to consider the issues of inequality and identity.

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