WILDEBEEST CROSSING DISRUPTED

Concerns over camp blocking wildlife migration in Maasai Mara

Society says in some facilities, the bed capacity limit was breached during the peak seasons

In Summary

• The Maasai Mara National Reserve is globally regarded as a premier wildlife viewing destination.  

• On September 8, Tourism CS Najib Balala said he had had discussed the camp built beside the Mara River with Narok Governor Samuel Tunai.  

Wildebeest and zebra.
CROSSING: Wildebeest and zebra.
Image: FILE

The revelation that a tented camp has been erected at the banks of the Mara River in the Maasai Mara National Reserve blocking the migration of wildebeest from crossing the river could just be the tip of the iceberg.

East Africa Wild Life Society (EAWLS) said there are more such cases. 

The society acts as the voice of conservation in East Africa through its evidence-based advocacy and engaging different key stakeholders to influence change.

EAWLS was commissioned by Narok county in 2016 to conduct a comprehensive and independent audit of all tourist facilities within the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

"The audit revealed some cases of non-compliance with laws, policies and regulations, especially those that relate to tourist facilities’ statutory requirements with regard to business registration, ownership and environmental management. The audit established that as at 2016, the reserve had a total of 31 permanent tourist facilities, including 29 lodges and two camps, with a total bed capacity of 1,382," it said.

EAWLS said it noted that in some facilities, the bed capacity limit was breached during the peak seasons. 

"The extent of that breach could not be established during the audit. Not only did this audit contribute to the development of the reserve management plan – which is yet to be gazetted – but it also presented some key recommendations."

On September 8, Tourism CS Najib Balala said he had had discussed the camp built beside the Mara River with Narok Governor Samuel Tunai. 

Balala said the camp was blocking the wildebeest crossing.

"Its very disturbing and we expect the governor to take action and have the camp removed!," he said. 

The CS said he had also insisted that they a management plan that will not only enhance biodiversity, but also protect wildlife migratory corridors. 

EAWLS said the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013 stipulates that no development project will be approved in the absence of a management plan that has been approved and gazetted by the CS. 

The increasing number of tourist facilities within the reserve in the absence of a gazetted plan is in contravention of the Act. 

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is globally regarded as a premier wildlife viewing destination. 

It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1989.

In 2006, US broadcaster ABC News named Maasai Mara National Reserve the seventh New Wonder of the World.

An expert panel on a breakfast show cited the spectacle of the annual migration of more than a million wildebeests, half a million gazelles, and 200,000 zebras constantly on the move from the Serengeti plains in Tanzania to Maasai Mara National Reserve in search of fresh grass and water.

The Maasai Mara ecosystem holds up to 30 percent of Kenya’s wildlife. 

Edited by R.Wamochie