Kenya crisis hits Mara game reserve hard
Human-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.
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?