Masai Mara inches closer to Unesco Heritage Wall of Fame

Wildebeests cross the Mara River during one of the annual migrations.

Masai Mara National Game Reserve could soon join the list of Unesco world heritage sites by 2022 if the State meets deadlines to present nomination documents.

Plans are at an advanced stage with a technical team preparing the necessary documents.

The reserve is widely regarded as the cradle of mankind as well as Africa's greatest wildlife reserve. It is home to the world's eighth wonder in the form of wildebeest migration. The process to have it listed as a Unesco world heritage site began in 2010.

A team of experts who converged at the Mara Serena Lodge at the weekend, came up with timelines to present the documents and eventual listing of the reserve.

The documents are to be presented to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) by February 1, 2021.

Review dossier

Unesco and the International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN) will review the dossier within one and a half years and the decision will be announced between June and July 2022.

“Masai Mara is one of those iconic places in the planet and it was expected that it will make it to the Unesco list.

"Mara was the missing piece in the system when Tanzania’s Serengeti was inscribed in 1981. We have been waiting for decades and Kenya will finally present its nomination to Unesco in Paris by February 2021,” Cyril Kormos, a representative from the World Commission on Protected Areas World Heritage Network, said.

Mr Kormos said it takes a year and a half for Unesco and IUCN to review the dossier and announcements are often made during World Heritage Committee meetings.

The meeting brings 21 governments to the decision table. The technical team said Mara will likely to be inscribed following its outstanding values just like Serengeti.

According to the Wildlife Principal Secretary Fred Segor, the global status of the national reserve still remains in the tentative list awaiting nomination dossier.

“The Mara has all attributes of a world heritage site. In 1990, we presented the park to the Unesco World Heritage Centre for listing in the Tentative List of World Heritage Sites," Prof Segor said in brief statement at the two-day meeting at the Mara.

It is understood that Kenya delayed in documenting the park.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Director General Brigadier (Rtd) John Waweru said the multi-sectoral cooperation with stakeholders makes it easy for the nomination process of Mara’s inscription to the global heritage listing.                                                            

“With the cooperation KWS has been receiving from its stakeholders and especially from Narok County and its neighbours, I am convinced that we will walk together and in consultation towards considering Masai Mara National Reserve for nomination for Unecso World Heritage inscription,” Mr Waweru said.

Narok Governor Samuel Tunai said the county will work with stakeholders to fast-track the nomination process to meet the deadlines.

“As a county, we are giving our commitment to work with Unesco to fast-track the process within the set deadlines,” Mr Tunai said.

A World Heritage Site is a landmark selected by Unesco for having natural, cultural, historical and scientific or other form of significance, which is legally protected by international treaties.

Sites that have been inscribed to the Unesco World Heritage, means they enjoy the prominence of global limelight as a protected area and becomes a major tourist attraction.

The status also gives the site an avenue for mobilising resources needed for conservation of the site.

For a site to be upgraded to a Unesco World Heritage Site, it has to have outstanding values. Kenya is using Masai Mara’s outstanding values including the annual wildebeest migration, a rare phenomenon that has earned the park the status of one of the Seven Wonders of the World to campaign.

Mara is also a watering point to migrant birds and hosts the largest number of carnivores.

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