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ELECTION 2022

Narok County enters deal with wildlife agency to protect the Maasai Mara

RIFT VALLEY
By Peter Theuri | Dec 29th 2021 | 4 min read
Maasai giraffes crossing road at Masai Mara Game Reserve on May 23, 2021.  [Robert,Kiplagat, Standard]

The Narok County Government and Masai Mara Wildlife Conservancy Association have signed a two-year agreement that accelerates conservation efforts for one of Africa’s most famous animal sanctuaries.

Alongside the larger Serengeti, The Masai Mara National Reserve is known for, among other things, the annual great migration of wildebeests. This is a spectacle in which over two million wildebeests, flanked by zebras and gazelles, migrate to the greener parts of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. The sight is so unusual it has been described a wonder of the world.

But with unending threats to wildlife, Narok County Government sought a way to conserve the animal habitats and retain the worth of the Mara.

National resource

“The Mara, as it is commonly known, is not just a county resource, it is a significant national resource, and an awe-striking global resource with unmatched acclaim. To put the significance of the Mara into perspective, 25 per cent of Kenyan wildlife, including the greatest migration of mammals on Earth, is in the greater Maasai Mara ecosystem,” says Narok Governor Samuel Tunai.

The Mara is a 1,510 square kilometres ecosystem. But amid increasing problems that bedevil the wild, including human-animal conflicts, the county government believes that it is time for other organisations to come together and forge a plan that oversees conservation. 

“No effort by a single entity can effectively protect, conserve and sustain an ecosystem that vast,” says Tunai.

First established

The Masai Mara National Reserve was first established in 1961, shortly before Kenya gained independence. It remains one of Kenya’ s most visited and absolutely loved destinations. When it was established as a wildlife sanctuary, the Mara covered only a small section of the current area and was expanded way later.

It's surroundings are the Serengeti Park to the south, the Siria/Oloololo escarpment to the west, and Maasai pastoral ranches to the north, east and west. 

The Maasai people, the dominant community around the Mara, are nomadic pastoralists who have been part of the human-wildlife conflict in the region for years. They have sought to graze in the vast swathes of land around, and then, in the reserve.

“Over the last nine years, my administration has made great strides in the protection and conservation of the Mara. This has been achieved through constant consultative and collaborative efforts. As a generation, we must remain acutely aware that nature and wildlife need always to be protected by mankind, not destroyed,” says Tunai.

And with other problems even in the form of climate change likely to decimate flora and fauna in such natural ecosystems, conservation efforts, says the governor, have never been more timely.

“With the harsh effects and realities of climate change all over the world, there is no better time to urgently put measures to protect our natural resources than now,” he says.

Efforts that the conservancy has put in have been timely interventions and need to be sustained to support the continued thriving of the game reserve.

“I highly commend the Masai Mara Wildlife Conservation Association for the sustained commitment in conservation of the Mara. This membership organisation of all the Mara conservancies remains open to any existing or upcoming wildlife conservancy whose land is part of or integral to the greater Mara ecosystem, and the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding is a confirmation to this,” Tunai says.

MMWCA has a mandate from landowners and tourism bodies to play an overarching coordination role for Greater Mara Ecosystem stakeholders.

“We must conserve and protect the Mara, and sustainably explore its wonders. When the migration corridor of the wildebeests is interfered with, and if the Mara River dries up - then what is certain is that the magnetic effect of wildebeests plunging into the river as spectacular migration takes place will be lost, and nothing much will lure local and foreign tourists to visit, other than the Big Five animals.”

Amid the threats to the flora and fauna in the Mara, Tunai says that the adoption of scientific solutions to conservation will give the reserve a fighting a chance. This will make it a treasure for generations to come.

“By evidence of science and statistics available, climate change is ravaging the environment. Rain patterns are now so different, and unreliable. Rivers are drying up, and in other places, animals are migrating to secure their survival. This is what we must guard against, especially if such migration would be permanent.”

“We must now harness technology and science and reach out to every stakeholder, to ensure the survival of the Mara Ecosystem. Though this partnership, we will tap into shared resources, harness available and necessary expertise, and even raise funds with ease, for the protection of the Mara,” he says.

“By conserving the greater Masai Mara ecosystem through this network of community protected areas, MMWCA ensures the prosperity of biodiversity and wildlife, the regional Maasai population, recreation, tourism, and the nation of Kenya for generations to come. The MMWCA is one of the 12 regional associations forming the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) as envisaged in the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013.”

The governor further insists that Africa, blessed with a variety of animals roaming natural habitats, should be on the forefront of conservation and should do everything to ensure that the treasures, which also attract tourists and fetch countries foreign exchange, are preserved.

“We are fortunate and blessed because God gave us a beautiful ecosystem and beautiful wildlife! Let us conserve and treasure them not only for ourselves but for generations to come!” 

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