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.