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How camp in the limelight for blocking wildebeests was approved

By Carolyne Chebet | September 13th 2020 at 04:38:49 GMT +0300

Wonder of the World: Wildbeest cross the Mara River. [Standard]

The tourist camp along Mara river in the eye of a storm for partially blocking migrating wildebeests leased the land from the defunct County Council of Narok.

The camp is operating on a 33-year land lease which was issued by the Ministry of Lands on November 25, 2011.

In the documents seen by Standard Digital, the Mara Ngeche Safari Camp in Maasai Mara National Reserve applied for a 33-year lease. In the letter dated October 3, 2008, the defunct County Council replied to an earlier grant of the lease in 2006. 

The letter signed by the clerk to the defunct county council, Maurice Ogolla noted that the lease had been granted subject to the approval of the Ministry of Local government.

In a letter dated May 15, 2009, NEMA okayed the Managing Director, Mara Ngeche Safari Camp to go on.

“The National Environment Management Authority has received your comments on the initial Environmental Audit report. The comments have been reviewed and found to be satisfactory. You are therefore required to make necessary arrangements of preparing your annual self-environmental audit and submit to Nema,” a statement from Nema signed by A. Kariuki for Director-General read.

On November 25, 2011, the Ministry of lands finally granted the lease.

“I forward herewith one lease in favour of Mara Ngeche safari camp limited duly engrossed for execution,” read part of the letter signed by Otieno Appida for Commissioner of lands.

Last week, Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala directed the Narok County government to remove the camp for gross violation of park rules.

Narok governor Samuel Tunai on Wednesday told the Standard that he was dealing with the issue.

Yesterday, efforts to reach the Governor to shade more light on how the matter will be handled failed. He did not respond to call and or text messages.

It didn't start with the camp

The Mara case is, however, one of the many cases of blocked wildebeest migratory corridors. 

Other routes that once thrived and hosted the great migrations include Liota plains in Narok. 

The gnus used to roam the plains and would migrate into the Mara to join the larger spectacle from Serengeti. 

Tourists at the Mara. [Standard]

Between 1977 and 1978, wildebeest populations in Loita were estimated at 123, 930. By 2016, 19,650 individuals roamed the plains and would migrate to Mara.

 “But that is no longer happening because people have fenced off farms and others have been fenced in there and can no longer move. The little migration from Loita is currently extinct because of developments and wildebeests no longer visit Mara,” says Mara Chief Warden James Sindiyo.

Mara-Loita, Serengeti-Mara, Athi-Kaputiei, Amboseli, and Tarangire-Manyara in Tanzania are five premier East African ecosystems that hosted spectacles of migrating wildebeests. Of the five, only Mara-Serengeti is currently active.

Athi-Kaputiei, wildebeest migration has also collapsed as a result of land sub-division, fences, and settlements coming up.

 Existing populations have been locked up. In the migratory route, the wildebeest population used the Nairobi National Park during the dry season due to its reliable water supply and abundant grass.

They would then move to calve on the pastoral lands to the southeast of the park during the wet season. They also migrated as far as Muranga and the Yatta Plateau while others migrated as far as Thika River in the dry season. Populations of wildebeests in Thika and Juja is history

In a research conducted to map wildebeest migration, status, and threats in East Africa published in 2019 February at biorxi.org, it is indicated that the Athi-Kaputiei wildebeest population suffered a 95 per cent decline from over 26,800 in 1977-1978 to less than 10,000 by the mid-1990s and under 3,000 animals in 2007-2014.

“The decline of this population has been much more dramatic in recent decades, leading to a virtual collapse of the migration,” researchers noted.

The migratory wildebeest population in the Amboseli also declined by 84.5 per cent from about 16,290 animals in 1977-1979 to 2,375 by 2010-2014. Between 2008 and 2009, there were less than 5,000 wildebeests in Amboseli.

“Migratory wildebeest population size and their routes declined in all the five ecosystems except the Serengeti-Mara. The declines are related to the expansion of agriculture, settlements, fences and roads that progressively occlude wildebeest grazing resources and migratory routes,” the researchers noted.

 According to Wildlife Migratory and Dispersal Areas map, a total of 58 migratory routes and corridors were identified in the Southern Kenya rangelands ecosystem, while 52 were identified in the northern Kenya rangelands and coastal terrestrial ecosystems.

The mapping was done in 2017 to secure wildlife migratory routes and corridors across the country. The most affected species whose migratory routes have been interfered with include the elephants, wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, Grevy’s zebra, giraffe, buffalo, topi and oryx.

The migratory corridors and dispersal areas are mainly found in human- and livestock-dominated landscape.

In the Southern Kenya rangelands, 17 corridors were mapped in the Maasai-Mara ecosystem, Eburu Forest and lakes Naivasha, Elementaita and Nakuru conservation and ecological areas, and Nairobi National Park.

South Rift has eight corridors in Amboseli, West Kilimanjaro and Tsavo Conservation Area.

In the mapping, it was observed that all the wildlife dispersal areas and migratory corridors in the Kenyan rangelands have been interfered with by human activities to the extent that some are completely blocked while others are highly threatened.


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