|Dear ATC Reader,
We are either witnessing the demise of Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve, or a renaissance that will save it.
Massive Challenges Facing the Mara
The iconic Masai Mara Reserve is the northern part of the Serengeti ecosystem. The great migration moves into the reserve and surrounding areas each year in search of water and grass. The reserve itself, however, is relatively small and depends on a much larger land area of Maasai ranches, known as the Greater Mara. (See map below) Here human population is exploding, and already the impact has been dramatic. It’s estimated that just 40% of resident wildlife remains, and migration corridors are threatened.
Population growth: Kenya’s birth rate is among the highest in the world, 25 per thousand. But in the Greater Mara, it’s 91 per thousand. At this rate, an already high population will quadruple in 14 years! Livestock populations have soared as well, causing increasing land degradation. Not only does all this threaten wildlife habitat, but an entire way of life for Maasai pastoralists.
Fencing: Open Maasai grazing lands, historically shared with wildlife, are now being sub-divided into fenced ranches. Wildlife movement is hindered, of course, with disastrous consequences.
The title of a recent study says it all: Fencing bodes a rapid collapse of the unique Greater Mara ecosystem.
A Paved Mara Highway? The government of Kenya has approved a paved highway that would cross migration routes in the Greater Mara. So far there has been no legal opposition, as there was with the infamous Serengeti highway in Tanzania. Conservation advocates have proposed overpasses for wildlife corridors.
There is hope because there is emerging awareness and leadership. One movement in particular – locally owned and managed wildlife conservancies where pastoralists lease their land, share it with wildlife, take down fencing, and receive income and other benefits from wildlife tourism and cattle.
Learn more: Saving the Mara through conservancies
Fourteen conservancies have gathered together to form an association, the Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA) that envisions community conservation as the savior of the ecosystem.
Learn more: Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association.
With our local Tanzanian partner, The Serengeti Preservation Foundation, we are reaching out to MMWCA to find areas of common interest and support. Many of the issues in the Mara are happening right across the border in Tanzania.
Thanks for your continued support!
Please stay involved. Consider help with a donation.
The Serengeti Watch Team