By Kipchumba Kemei
The first group of wildebeest has crossed into Masai Mara Game Reserve from Serengeti plains in Tanzania. This happened despite efforts by Tanzanian authorities to stop the animals from crossing by lighting fires in Serengeti savannah.
The fires were still visible on Monday but hoteliers said it would not stop the animals from crossing the Mara River to kick off the annual tourism peak season.
“We hope the rains will extinguish the fires. For many years Tanzanians have unsuccessfully tried to stop them from crossing into Kenya,” said an hotelier who declined to be named.
Conservationists have appealed to East African county authorities to allow the migration to continue unhindered.
“The country’s economy heavily depends on tourism and we see it as an act of economic sabotage,” said Sammy Nkoitoi, the chairman of Siana Wildlife Trust in Mara.
The annual migration, named the Seventh Wonder of the World, takes place in July and peters out in early October.
Despite the migration, hotels in and around the park have not been fully booked with hoteliers blaming recent terror attacks and travel advisories by foreign governments.
“The situation is not promising but we expect it to improve. Around this time every year, we do brisk business,” said Ben Kipeno, a proprietor of tented camps west of the reserve.
Kipeno says the ongoing rains have improved the grass cover, making predators flock the park.
“Visitors will easily view all the wild animals including the Big Five. All predators are back to prey on wildebeests,” he said.
Andrew Mungatana, the national vice chairman of Tour Guides and Drivers Association wants the Narok County Council to improve the state of roads outside and inside the park.