Kenya crisis hits Mara game reserve hard

April 10, 2008

Joseph Kimojino, a ranger with Mara Conservancy, talks with a group of Maasai men outside Enkereri village, near Maasai Mara game reserve, April 3, 2008. The Maasai tribesmen of the Oloololo Escarpment have been hit hard, with only a trickle of visitors to the world-famous park meaning the breakdown of a compensation scheme meant to stop them hunting lions. But with the Mara Conservancy facing a monthly shortfall of at least $50,000 due to gate receipts that have plummeted 80 percent — and therefore unable to pay out when predators kill valuable Maasai livestock — tensions are rising fast. REUTERS/Radu SighetiHuman-animal relations are at breaking point in Kenya’s renowned Maasai Mara game reserve.
Visitor numbers have dropped 80 percent since a deadly post-election crisis at the start of the year, meaning the Mara Conservancy, the non-profit organisation that manages the park, is in financial crisis.
It has had to cut back on anti-poaching patrols, lay off staff and suspend a successful cattle compensation scheme that had encouraged conservation by paying local Maasai for livestock killed by leopards and lions.

Attacks by predators are on the rise, and some Maasai say they are ready to hunt down the big cats stalking their herds – something that would slash animal numbers in the park and hurt any revival of Kenya’s vital tourism sector.

In a bid to continue protecting the reserve’s wildlife, two Conservancy staff members have taken their fundraising efforts online, both with modest success.  A Maasai man walks around a cattle enclosure in Enkereri village near Masai Mara game reserve April 3, 2008. The Maasai tribesmen of the Oloololo Escarpment have been hit hard, with only a trickle of visitors to the world-famous park meaning the breakdown of a compensation scheme meant to stop them hunting lions. But with the Mara Conservancy facing a monthly shortfall of at least $50,000 due to gate receipts that have plummeted 80 percent — and therefore unable to pay out when predators kill valuable Maasai livestock — tensions are rising fast. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Joseph Kimojino, a ranger with 20 years experience, writes an impassioned blog describing the job, the dangers of setting ambushes for cattle rustlers and how the Maasai have responded to the cutbacks. He has raised more than $35,000 since January.

Asuka Takita, a Japanese vet who trained in Kenya and speaks fluent Swahili, as well as the Maasai language Maa, also uses the Web to recount tales of treating wildlife in the park and domestic animals on the escarpment above – including vaccinating thousands of dogs against rabies. Her readers have donated about $50,000 to date.

Both have received support from around the world, but what do you think? How important is it to conserve wildlife when tens of thousands of Kenyans remain homeless because of political violence? What will the long-term effects be on the economy?

8 comments

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I think it is vital that the wildlife is preserved at all costs, once the wildlife is gone it is gone and so will the tourisim to come once the political crisis stabilises, humans must learn to realise the importance of this, it is part of africas heritage as much as her people are.

Posted by andrew booth | Report as abusive

We have a tremendous number of aid organizations and workers working on that and I support that on all levels.

The global focus for Kenya is on humanitarian aid, not wildlife. But what are the long term ramifications for neglecting planning for the future for an economically healthy Kenya.

Tourism is the number one money maker for Kenya. If Kenya’s natural resources are not protected in this time of uncertainty, what is the value of visiting Kenya in the future?

Protecting the wildlife is an investment in not only Kenya’s economic future, but also the future of their children. What’s the point of saving people when they have no legacy to enjoy through coming generations? And what demand would it place on the more affluent countries if Kenya’s economy never rebounded because the parks were not safe and a tour through them was nothing more than a miserable lesson in poor resource management.

Kenya needs to sustain itself as best it can and the way it does that is through tourism so we need to get our heads around how vitally important wildlife sightings are in the grander plan and start putting our money and time into protecting the animals.

Posted by Fiona Dunn | Report as abusive

What is the point of saving wildlife in kenya and yet human beings die like rats everyday. Should we save human life first on human life? In anycase, the hotels in the parks are owned by the same politicians.

Posted by Kenneth | Report as abusive

I agree with Kenneth, even though I think that it is a lovely task to protect endangered species, and to guarantee the quality of life of endemic species inhabitants of the Mara, I also believe that the human beings living in Kenya need everything, not only the parks as a source of tourism. They need education, so that, for example, baby rape cases do not happen as a result of the HIV epidemic and the absurd belief of having intercourse with a virgin as a cure for the disease, they need education so that they can be more active in the struggle against corruption, that led to the violent events that took so many lives recently, education, education, education is the key. To protect the wild animals in the Mara is a beautiful task and it is amazing that a foreigner like Asuka Takita has dedicated her life to them, but other Japanese, or other people from first world countries should also dedicate their lives to save the lives of human beings in Kenya and in other third world countries in Africa.

Posted by Shelly | Report as abusive

We need both. There are highly skilled zoologists who have given up the possibility of comfortable well paid lives for this cause and also to train local people like the lion guardians to protect wildlife. That is their area of expertise and they should be commended for this. I am sure the life is not so “lovely”. But we also need medics and experts in other fields to make their contributins. Horses for courses

Posted by Paul. | Report as abusive

All commentors make good points. The wild life is the “natural resource” and could be a huge part of the countries economic future. But what is a future without the wonderful people. What about this solution.. Encourage the “asuka Takita’s” of the world to continue their unselfish efforts. Then,we all know that the majority of profits from the tourism are ending up in the politicans pockets… So force the politicians to use that money for education, better health care, small business job oppourtunities, road improvements, etc. Use “caution” however, don’t end up with a “well-fare” system. We in America know that “enables” some people As stated by one commentor..EDUCATION,EDUCATION, EDUCATION.. is the answer. The “Asuka Tajutas’”of the world can’t continue without our contributions. Talk and comments are good, but remember..if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem. Give up some of your useless luxuries and make donations.
This is my story and I’m sticking to it.

Posted by karolyn | Report as abusive

I’m a missionary to Kenya. I don’t live there, but I go every two and half months, working with people in Korogocho and Mathare slum districts. We are feeding 500 school children on a daily basis. I see the hunger up close. We can’t look at the masses, we look at idividuals who are sufferings from severe lack of food and medical care. Even with this……….I see the importance of maintaining the wildlife in Kenya. There has to be a balance. One needs the other.

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What is t he environment like in Kenya?