Kenya, Tanzania plan animal census

Narok Governor Samuel Tunai with Brian Heath, CEO Mara Conservancy during the Greater Serengeti Society meeting at Mara Serena, Masai Mara on Saturday. [Courtesy]

Kenya and Tanzania will conduct a joint cross-border count of rhinos and other large mammals in the shared Mara-Serengeti ecosystem.

The census is one of the resolutions reached by a joint meeting of tourism industry players from the two countries at the Mara Serena Safari Lodge that has been sitting for the last three days.

The meeting dubbed the Greater Serengeti Society platform and chaired by the chairperson of the Tourism and Natural Resources Management Committee Samuel Tunai deliberated on the successes made so far in the conservation of the Greater Serengeti ecosystem, as well as existing challenges and interventions needed.

The workshop facilitated by the European Union was attended by senior managers and directors from Tanzania national parks, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Director of National Reserve and the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority.

In his address, Tunai, who is also Narok County governor, said a committee was formed during the meeting to prepare for the cross border census involving KWS, Narok rangers, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, Wildlife Division of Tanzania and national parks in Tanzania.

The aerial census will seek to establish wildlife population, trends and distribution as well as foster cross-border collaboration on wildlife monitoring and management between the two East African countries.

“The information that will be gathered from the census will establish how many rhinos are there, and the data will be used for planning and preparing the management for possible wildlife security and human-wildlife conflict,” said Tunai.

Stakeholders also sought solutions for major management concerns for the Greater Serengeti including issues regarding the Mara River, land-use change and managing the boundaries, tourism, illegal activity and human-wildlife co-existence.

Grant Hopcraft said the Tanzanian government has already moved about 8,000 people out of the Speke Game Controlled Area in Bunda district in a bid to conserve Serengeti’s ecosystem as it faces worsening drought.

The researcher, in his presentation, said the project aims to ensure the survival of millions of animals, including wildebeests and zebras that take part in the Great Migration every year.