Meet Founder Danielle Da Silva

Image by Rosalind LeBlanc

Image by Rosalind LeBlanc

My name is Danielle Da Silva and I'm a photographer and aspiring filmmaker who loves learning, travelling and looks at everything with a critical yet optimistic eye (a difficult yet not impossible balancing act). 

I'm also the Founder/CEO of Photographers Without Borders (PWB). I have an MSc. in Environment and Development from the London School of Economics, an Honours degree in Conservation Biology, Psychology and Global Studies from the University of Western Ontario, and I have a Rainforest Biodiversity certificate from the University of Toronto; however the most important part of my education is my experience travelling and working all around the world. Of the more than 50 countries I've visited, I've spent most of my time in rainforests and jungles by choice, and it's safe to say that I'm rainforest and sustainability-obsessed. 

This past January in 2015 I accompanied our photographer Gita Defoe to Sumatra, Indonesia on a photo assignment to document the work of the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) for PWB. I instantly fell in love with the people who run this project, the wildlife and habitat they serve, and the island of Sumatra.

Our first few days were spend photographing orangutans in the wild. What a treat—we were able to spend time with a particular female named Mina and her two babies for hours on end. We even became part of her entourage and followed her as she chased tourists.

Next we visited a reforestation site where OIC had reclaimed palm oil plantations that were illegally encroaching on conservation lands, and we witnessed the magic that can happen in just a few years of reforesting a site with the help of hard work and dedication.

Then things got real. We were invited to come along on a rescue at a theme park where a baby orangutan was being poorly kept in a dirty cage at the back of the park. We had learned during our trip that baby orangutans can only be obtained by killing their mothers. Such is the human-like protective nature of a mother orangutan. It was devastating to realize that this small baby had lost her mother in a violent struggle with humans to live in a filthy, tiny cage. I will never forget her tiny hand holding onto mine, her brown eyes looking into mine much like a human child. Thankfully, after some struggle, the OIC team was able to rescue the orangutan and we took her to a rehabilitation centre. Panut and his team named her Cece.

Next we went to the Medan Zoo to photograph the orangutans they have (illegally) in their possession. Seeing the orangutans in a small house-like structure, chewing on plastic bottles with no trees to swing on, brought tears to my eyes. Stripped away of some of the glamour of modern zoos, I was humbly reminded of what zoos really are—animal prisons that commodify animals for our entertainment at the animal’s expense. After witnessing orangutans in their natural habitat playing, climbing, swinging for long stretches…I realized that if we are to enjoy wildlife and nature, it should at least be in the wild—not in zoo cages—and without fearing that if we do so that they will be mercilessly killed by the human species.

This experience, without a doubt, brought me closer to the jungle I love and reminded me why I decided to pursue my education the way I did, and it sobered me to the realities and challenges we face on a global scale.

Many times in my life I have had to act for the mere fact I feared others wouldn’t, and that someone could get hurt as a result…there have also been times when I wished others had acted when I needed help, and they didn’t.

We have to be the ones to act, because nobody else will.

Photographers Without Borders is my baby, and now this cause, to preserve a piece of Sumatran rainforest for the sake of the animals, the planet, and even ourselves, has come to life. I hope you will be a part of this journey and know that by becoming a part of this and supporting this, you will always be honoured and welcomed. Thank you so much for your support! Every little counts.

This holiday season, why not make a donation for yourself or as a gift for someone you love?