Overtourism, of course, impacts the visitor experience as well, degrading the very qualities that lure travelers. This is happening in parts of the Serengeti ecosystem.
Serengeti Watch has received numerous reports from travelers about safari vehicles speeding and harassing wildlife. For instance, a BBC film unit told us of a safari vehicle racing toward sleeping lions in order to get clients good photographs. Guides, who depend on gratuities from travelers for much of their income, are under pressure to produce.
One traveler reported her experience in a blog:
“A stressed out Cape buffalo charged our car because he was separated from his herd. A scared leopard was forced into hiding after being boxed in by a mass of tourist vehicles. Hyenas sleeping on the road were awoken and startled when our car got too close. While all of these experiences were phenomenal for us, I can’t help wondering: is it fair to the animals?”
Scientists are now telling us how this does affect wildlife:
Femke Broekhuis, a cheetah researcher at the University of Oxford, wrote an article entitled, We need to limit tourist numbers to save cheetahs from becoming an endangered species.
A study of impalas in the Serengeti showed “significant physiological stress in relation to roads and traffic’ resulting in “a more female skewed sex ratio, lower observed reproductive and recruitment rate, and reduced time spent on restorative behaviour (i.e. resting)."
And then there is the outright killing of animals by safari vehicles. as reported in this article by a Chinese news agency, Tanzanian experts raise alarm over killings of cheetahs in Serengeti by tourist cars.
One report Serengeti Watch received told of a young zebra being killed by a safari vehicle jockeying for position at a crowded wildebeest crossing.
Masai Mara is Too Crowded
The Mara has lost much of its wildlife, and it is not unreasonable to believe this is in part due to overcrowding, overbuilding, poor tourism practices, and lack of enforcement of regulations.
The Mara Conservancy, which does an excellent job administering a section of the Masai Mara Reserve, says,
“Is unregulated traffic at key crossing points actually destroying the very spectacle that attracts tens of thousands of tourists to the Mara… The answer is an unequivocal yes. There is absolutely no doubt that the number of vehicles witnessed at crossing points (up to 300 were reported in one case) totally disrupted the crossings – driving the animals away to quieter spots”
An article entitled, How the Masai Mara is sinking under its own global success, reports that the tourism visitor density there is…
“ten times higher than some other Kenyan parks and 17 times more than Tanzania Serengeti. Visitors and high concentration of lodges have partly contributed to the reduction in animals’ numbers, with some such as resident wildebeests declining over time by as much as 75 per cent."