The Maasai Mara
by Victoria Tait
The Great Wildebeest Migration
Ask anyone what pops into their mind when you mention Kenya’s iconic Maasai Mara National Reserve and the answer is likely to be the great wildebeest migration. Which is not surprising as it is the largest animal migration in the world. Over 2 million animals including wildebeest, zebra, Thomson’s gazelle and eland make the long journey along well-established migratory routes.
Visitors from all over the world flock to the Mara between July and October, hoping to witness the animals cross the Mara River without being snapped up be waiting crocodiles. Although there is no scientific proof, it is thought the wildebeest migrate to follow the rains and the growth of new grass.
The Maasai Mara
The Maasai Mara it is an area of savannah wilderness in the south-west corner of Kenya. It borders Tanzania where it joins the much larger Serengeti National Park.
Although the Maasai Mara National Reserve was established in 1961, it is unlike most designated wildlife areas in Kenya. The Mara is not a National Park, so it is not overseen by the Kenya Wildlife Service. At its cores is the Mara triangle, which is run as a non-profit organisation working with Maasai communities and local government. Surrounding it are fifteen private conservancies where lodges and safari companies lease land from Maasai families.
The Mara is home to a huge diversity of animals including Africa’s big five: lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants and the rare black rhino. There are many species of antelope, including the topi, which have long faces and straight ribbed horns, and which stand on termite mounds to survey the surrounding area. I have also seen hippos, zebra, giraffe, warthogs, hyena, a serval cat and an amazing sighting of a cheetah and her cub.
The beauty of the Mara, and the number and diversity of its animals, is under threat from the ever increasing human population on its borders. Whilst the conservancies enforce strict grazing regimes, with their Maasai landowners, in the central Mara reserve thousands of cattle illegally enter every night to graze.
Research has been conducted which suggests that over the past forty years the number of cattle on, and bordering, the reserve has increased by 40%, and the number of sheep and goats by nearly 190%. In contrast, virtually all wildlife species have declined: giraffe, eland and topi by between 50% and 90%, migratory wildebeest by 80% and zebra by 75%.
The Marsh Lion Pride
It’s not just the overgrazing, which is having an impact on the wildlife in the Maasai Mara. The Mara’s Marsh Pride became famous when the BBC documentary The Big Cat Diary followed their daily life. In December 2015, lions from the Marsh Pride were accused of killing cattle. In retaliation, a member of the cattle owner’s family sprinkled pesticide on the carcass knowing the lions would return. At least three lions died, including Bibi, whose story captivated viewers when she was exiled from the pride and struggled to bring up her cubs in her own.
Siena, another of the lionesses who starred in the series, is also thought to have also been killed, although her body was unrecognisable after being mauled by hyenas. A third lion, a young male called Alan, was so weakened by the poison that he was trampled by a buffalo and had to be euthanized.
The future of the Maasai Mara hangs in the balance. Maasai tribesmen have roamed the area for hundreds of years, long before it was given official protection, so it is understandable that they claim it as their own.
Wildlife isn’t governed by lines on a map, and many do venture out of the reserve onto the land of local tribesmen. Many of these tribesmen see at as unfair that they have to share their pastures with wildlife, and are unable to retaliate when their livestock is killed, and yet they are not allowed to bring livestock into the Mara during dry times.
Fundamentally, many Maasai do not see the Mara Reserve as a source of income. And yet huge sums of money are raised through conservation fees, bedroom taxes and land leases. In addition, revenue is raised through village tours, the sale of handicrafts and the many salaried jobs at the lodges. But not everyone benefits, and the distribution of income is disproportionate with the large Mara landowners taking the lion’s share.
There will be no safe place for the Marsh Lions, and wildlife of the Maasai Mara Reserve, until the reserve authorities address the need to ensure an equitable distribution of revenue amongst the local community. They also need to address the increasing problem of illegal grazing and perhaps look to the private wildlife conservancies where cattle grazing is permitted on a rotational basis. Ultimately, there needs to be a working partnership between national and local government, the local community and the tourist operators, with each participant playing their role and not abusing their power.
Rhino Charge, the thrilling third tale in the Kenya Kanga series. A sharp heroine, suspenseful reveals, and iconic African settings — Rhino Charge (A Kenya Kanga Mystery) by Victoria TaitTweet
A treacherous race to stop an extinction. A mysterious death linked to the past. Can a silver-haired sleuth track down the clues in time to save a life?
‘Mama Rose’ Hardie has always fought to conserve Kenya’s precious wildlife. Officiating at an off-road fundraising race in the iconic Maasai Mara, she’s shocked when a vehicle crash claims the life of a friend. And worse still, this was no accident…
When another friend is accused of plotting a deadly sabotage, the clever amateur sleuth vows to clear his name. But with motives between teams reaching deep into an unfortunate past, the determined woman must work fast to track down the wily killer. .
Can Rose catch the culprit before more lives are endangered?
Rhino Charge is the thrilling third tale in the Kenya Kanga cozy mystery series. If you like sharp heroines, suspenseful reveals, and iconic African settings, then you’ll love Victoria Tait’s breathtaking story.
Buy Rhino Charge to set a trap for a callous murderer today!
Victoria Tait is the author of the enchanting Kenya Kanga Mystery series. She’s drawn on her 8 years of experience living in rural Kenya, with her family, to write vivid and evocative descriptions. Her readers feel the heat, taste the dryness, and smell the dust of Africa. Her elderly amateur sleuth, “Mama Rose” Hardie is Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple reincarnated and living in Kenya.
Like all good military wives, Victoria follows the beat of the drum and has recently moved to war-scarred Sarajevo in Bosnia. She has two fast growing teenage boys. She enjoys horse riding and mountain biking but is apprehensive about learning to ski. Victoria is looking forward to the sun, sand, and seafood of neighbouring Croatia when the world returns to normal.
- You can find Victoria at https://www.victoriatait.com/
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- GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20373879.Victoria_Tait
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