With the emergence of the Conservancy Model in the Mara Ecosystem in Kenya, there was a great hope amongst many conservationists.
A tall good looking young man came over to our Land Rover. It was Daniel. Finally we’d found the right building on the University of Eldoret campus. Here many of Kenya’s wildlife conservationists are trained. The location being rather strategic to the Conservancy model in the Mara ecosystem.
Daniel Odhiambo Nyangweso is a confident, outgoing master’s student. He reached out to me a few years back via Facebook to discuss issues pertaining to wildlife welfare. I was impressed by his passion for wildlife conservation and his drive to get the education he needed to make a difference in his country.
Daniel’s insights regarding the Conservancy Model in the Mara Ecosystem
It was after 3 years without making any visit to the Masai Mara National Reserve when this great opportunity offered by academic requirements enabled me to make another trip back. This was a pre-visit aimed at familiarizing myself with the area, since my research was to be carried in Mara and I chose to request for secondary data on previous animal census from The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in order to fulfill one of my proposed objective.
To achieve this, I was expected to obtain permit from KWS Headquarters in Nairobi and this stretched my journey from the University of Eldoret to Narok through Kenya wildlife service headquarters, Nairobi. In order to be in Narok County by midday, I was able to be at the KWS Headquarter at 6.12 am, and I happened to be the first person served on that day. Throughout my stay at the headquarters I was offered the best services one would long for in Kenya. To my surprise were the services offered by Research licensing officer, Dr. Ombati, a man I have never met before: a kind, honest, credible and excellent man who was ever ready to walk me from one office to another. Thanks a lot Daktari!
As per the location of Masai Mara in the south western Kenya along Northern Tanzania border I had to leave early and at 9.00am our Matatu departed from Nairobi and the drive was smooth like silk, we managed to arrive in Narok town 16 minutes past midday, here we were welcomed by high temperature of about 340C with dust all over. Though the town is known for its roasted meat nyama choma I opted for just cold water and nuts as I had heavy breakfast at KWS.
Later in the afternoon I took my second trip from Narok to Ewaso Ngiro, the town that hosts KWS Narok county headquarters. Here I was expected to access the required data. The drive, that took 30 minutes from Narok town exposed me to the changes that have taken place in the Mara Ecosystem. The growing of land subdivision was evident through permanent fences that I observed along Narok-Ewaso Ngiro road.
Upon arrival I was given access to the data in KWS research station in Masai Mara National Reserve. It was too late to make it to Mara that very day, hence I opted to have a night at Osim county lodge in Ewaso Ngiro. A very quiet place with nice meals and fair charges. With availability of Wi-Fi in the premises I was able to undertake many activities that requires internet connectivity. While in Ewaso Ngiro, I was in constant contact with my former classmate who serves as Deputy park warden and the senior scientist at KWS Mara Research center. They both assisted me to get free lift to Mara from Osim County lodge, with priority to have the front seat. This offered me an opportunity to observe changes that have taken place in Mara ecosystem in the past few years.
Prior to current study, Masai Mara National Reserve in the Mara ecosystem has been source to my conservation knowledge for many studies. For instance in 2008-2009, 2013-2014.
Challenges prior to the Masai Mara National Reserve Conservancy Model
A study which I carried out 2013-2014 with the focus on EFFECT OF HUMAN ACTIVITIES ON WILDLIFE CONSERVATION IN MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE AND ITS SURROUNDINGS.
Findings revealed that various human activities among them pastoralism, tourism, settlement, farming, charcoal burning which were practiced in MMNR and its surroundings significantly impact on wildlife conservation. Impacts cited included human wildlife conflicts, resource completion between wildlife and livestock, habitat destruction, wildlife harassment and encroachment into dispersal areas and Migratory corridors. Results further showed that although various measures among them establishment of conservancies, control of mushrooming hotels and lodges, improved quality of livestock, establishment of cultural villages and public education and extension programs had been implemented by both MMNR management and local communities to mitigate effects of human activities on wildlife conservation, those measures were not effective, hence putting the future conservation of wildlife in Masai Mara National Reserve in jeopardy.
The study recommended the implementation of a management plan to guide activities to be undertaken, educate local residents on practicing activities that are compatible with conservation.
The Masa Mara National Reserve Conservancy Model
With the emergence of conservancies around Masai Mara, there was a great hope amongst many conservationists. Many viewed the model as the savior of Masai Mara once and for all, and to rejuvenate its resources.
The Conservancy model was established not only to conserve the wildlife and environment but also to protect and empower the local Maasai community through land rental pay off.
Today’s reality of the Masai Mara National Reserve Conservancy Model
I was shocked in my latest trip to observe immense/drastic changes that had occurred in Mara ecosystems in the past few years. From Narok to Sekenani Gate, I was able to see existence of permanent fences, an evidence showing an increased land subdivision in the region, a lot of land degradation, habitat loss and fragmentation, huge herds of livestock were observed during my trip.
Habitat within the reserve is already depleted an I was shocked. Cattle being grazed right in the park leading to a serious resource competition between wildlife and livestock.
In 2007/2008 one could not graze in this park and you go escort free, but in 2017 it was the norm of the day. A drive from Sekenani Gate to Kenya Wildlife Research Center station through Sarova Hotel was enough to provoke my mind that something has gone in the wrong direction. Since I was in this park at the same month in 2008/2009, 2013/2014 and 2017 I was able to make a comparisons on the availability of food resources and presence of animals.
it was clear to make a conclusion that wildlife resources were so much depleted in Masai Mara, not just because of the management but also to the climatic changes and interwoven factors which are associated with the same.
Upon arrival at Mara KWS research station, where I met with senior scientists we discussed an array of issues pertaining to wildlife conservation in Mara. To my surprise were the Arial snapshots taken during wildlife survey in Mara ecosystem.
It was clear evidenced that the rate at which land subdivision and permanent fences are erected in Mara ecosystem, despite the increased number of conservancies around Masai Mara shall soon make the conservancies to become Islands. Hence putting the future of the Masai Mara in jeopardy. According to the study carried out by (Ogutu et al, 2016), the study recommends that unless series interventions are carried out in Masai Mara National Reserve the Kenyan’s pristine 7th Wonder of the World will not be witnessed by tomorrow’s generation.
The future of the Masai Mara is in jeopardy (according to Ogutu et al, 2016) unless series interventions are carried out. If not, the Kenyan’s pristine 7th Wonder of the World will not be witnessed by tomorrow’s generation.
I trust and believe that my studies, which are about to commence, will offer solutions to some of these problems.
In conclusion, we should all rise up and help save Masai Mara National Reserve in the Mara ecosystem for biodiversity, richness and future generations. There is need to undertake land use activities which are compatible to wildlife conservation in the Ecosystem
Be free to discuss issues pertaining to the Masai Mara wildlife conservation with Daniel via email.
Thanks Daniel, we look forward to following your work.