The world-famous Masai Mara Game Reserve may soon lose its lustre as drought threatens the wildlife that attracts thousands of tourists every year.
Destructive human activity in the Mau Forest has exacerbated the effects of drought, as rivers keep drying up and animal population diminishes.
Masai Mara Game Reserve Chief Warden Moses ole Kuyioni said water levels in the Mara River had drastically reduced, threatening the entire ecosystem.
Besides the drying rivers, Mr Kuyioni said pasture had also significantly decreased.
“The Mara River is almost drying up. Water levels are low. Abstraction of water upstream for irrigation is also a challenge,” Kuyioni said.
He opined that destruction of the Mau Forest over the years had been a major contributor to the river’s low water levels.
Kuyioni said deforestation and encroachment of forest land, as people keep looking for land to settle in the forest, had affected the flow of the river.
“So much has to be done to save Mara River, which will in turn save thousands of wildlife. Destruction of forest upstream has a bad impact on River Mara,” Kuyioni said.
He said if the situation worsened, cases of human-wildlife conflict in the region would escalate.
Tributaries to the Mara River have also dried up, spelling doom to a water body that has been a centre of the spectacular wildebeest migration.
According to experts, the future of the Mara is in limbo.
Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem Coordinator Nicholas Murero said other rivers in the larger Mara ecosystem, such as Sekenani, Talek, Nkoilale and Ewuaso Ng’iro, had dried up.
Mr Murero blamed the diminishing water levels on sand harvesting activities. He said the activities had been going on despite warnings from authorities.
“Everyday lorries full of sand drive from the Mara to destinations such as Narok, Kericho and Bomet. We have complained to the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) but nothing is being done,” said Murero.
On February 21, Kenya Wildlife Service issued an alert on the increasing cases of human-wildlife conflict.
The agency said the incidences were on the rise as a result of drought.
In the alert, KWS warned that while wildlife got displaced, the situation increased cases of human-wildlife conflict.
“The dry spell in most parts of the country is displacing wildlife from their traditional habitat, as they search for pasture and water,” the alert by KWS indicated.
Narok, Kajiado, Meru, Mau and Lamu have recently experienced increased human-animal conflict