Kenya Desperately Seeks Alternatives to Tourism to Save 7th Wonder of the World

Posted on 9 March 2008. Filed under: Environment |

One of the world’s most extraordinary wildlife reserves, Kenya’s Masai Mara, recently voted the 7th Wonder of the World, is under severe threat from widespread poaching following the collapse of tourism in Kenya’s post-election crisis.

But Dr Richard Leakey, who chairs the environmental NGO, WildlifeDirect.org, believes he has a solution capable of insulating the Masai Mara and other reserves from the relatively fickle tourism industry that they now depend on.

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Dr Leakey’s organization hosts conservation blogs designed to raise funds from millions of supporters of African wildlife around the world. Last year they raised over 350,000 dollars to save mountain gorillas in war torn DR Congo through online donations for the Gorilla Protection blog. Surely, we can do the same to save the Maasai Mara through the Mara Conservancy blog,” he said. “Africa’s parks cannot survive on tourism revenues alone, especially during times of political instability”.

Dr Leakey, who is credited with ending the slaughter of Kenya’s elephants in the 1980’s, is convinced online support is an ideal way of guaranteeing the future of conservation across the continent. “We have a responsibility to protect this extraordinary wilderness, not just for Kenyans, but as custodians on behalf of the entire world. If we do nothing, we are in danger of losing it for ever,” he said.

The 500km2 Maasai Mara Triangle is managed by the Mara Conservancy Trust, and completely financed by the receipts of the 70,000 visitors who enter this unique ecosystem every year. The reserve is the Kenyan extension of the Serengeti plains of Tanzania, and is the top attraction in Kenya’s $900 million tourist industry.

Kenya’s post election crisis has triggered a 90% collapse in visitor numbers to parks and reserves. That has forced hotels to close, triggered thousands of job losses and had countless other indirect impacts that are still being calculated.

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The damage to the local economy means many people are expected to turn to poaching wildlife for the bushmeat trade, causing irreparable damage to the ecosystem. With its millions of animals, the Maasai Mara is especially vulnerable; over 900 poachers were arrested in recent years. In 2007 alone nearly 500 wire snares were collected, 15 animals rescued and 46 animals were found either dead in snares or recently butchered. The tourism crisis has lead to reduced manpower for surveillance which will lead to an immediate rise in poaching.

“Wildlife security is going to be hit hard,” said Brian Heath, CEO of the Mara Conservancy Trust “We expect a sharp increase in poaching. The Mara’s wildlife not only attracts thousands of tourists but poachers too, primarily for bushmeat.”

The local Maasai community is also suffering. “My community benefits directly from tourism as gate revenues pay for the wildlife conflict compensation scheme,” said Parmois Siampei, a Maasai Administrative Officer for the Mara Conservancy and local community member. “Over the years this has led to a strong relationship between the Maasai and the Mara Conservancy Trust. We are uncertain how long this goodwill can last given the collapse of this compensation scheme,”

The Mara conservancy blog on WildlifeDirect.org appeals to online visitors to make donations to protect the wildlife of the worlds 7th Wonder to ensure that its survival is guaranteed.

The Mara Conservancy Trust, a non-profit company, was established in January 2001 to manage and protect the wildlife of the Maasai Mara Conservancy. The day to day management of the conservancy is documented in a blog: http://www.wildlfiedirect.org/blogAdmin/maratriangle

The Maasai Mara is located west of the Rift Valley and is a natural extension of the Serengeti plains, in Tanzania. More than one million wildebeests and 200,000 zebras move in a quest for the best pastures, finding along the way the crocodile-crowded Mara River between July and October. In 2006, the Maasai Mara was named the 7th Wonder of the World by ABC News.

Wildlifedirect.org, a charity based in Kenya, was founded by Richard Leakey who envisioned the need for alternative sources of wildlife conservation funding to save Africa’s rich wildlife heritage when tourism fails. Online micro-donations are received in response to conservation blogs to support field conservationists. The website hosts over 50 blogs in nine African countries, giving field conservationists a voice, and allowing donors to directly support and participate in conservation. 100% of donations go to the cause that is supported by the donors.

Brian Heath, Director, CEO, Mara Conservancy Trust
Dipesh Pabari, Communications Manager, WildlifeDirect –

For additional information please contact:

Brian Heath, Director, CEO, Mara Conservancy Trust – bheath@triad.co.ke or +254 734 225378

Dipesh Pabari, Communications Manager, WildlifeDirect – dipesh@wildlifedirect.org or +254 733 989082
For high resolution photographs, please contact Dipesh Pabari

Also visit http://www.wildlifedirect.org/blogAdmin/maratriangle for additional information.

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3 Responses to “Kenya Desperately Seeks Alternatives to Tourism to Save 7th Wonder of the World”

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The Daily Telgraph featured the Mara Triangle crises last week. It’s an interesting feature as it looks at how social networking can help a cause:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/03/03/eamasai203.xml
Whilst, there is a fair amount of attention on the Mara Triangle, they still desperately need help as tourism is not coming back just yet…

I completely agree with what has been said. I stayed in the Mara for over 6 months (for work and not leisure) at one time, and have been a regular visitor ever since. What amazes me is that we have a 7th wonder of the world however our own Government cannot protect it efficiently enough. From illegal mushrooming of camps, to hordes of minivans, illegal routes, unscrupulous tour drivers / companies, poachers, smugglers, corrupt NNC and TZCC officials, and human settlement encroaching ever closer to the reserve things are looking pretty grim. Now we are also seeing the reality of deforestation in the Mau summit which has begun to affect water levels in the rivers in the Mara. This has put pressure on both man and animals to find water and better grazing grounds and tensions are beginning to rise. Having close ties with some of the Masai community they are already up in arms about the Governments failure to look after them and their livestock. After the election fiasco I even got reports of talks amongst the community that they were willing to start farming and grazing within the park. However currently this does not appear to be a huge threat compared to the environmental degradation the park is facing. I appreciate the work of Mr Heath and his colleagues in trying what they can to protect the park and I fully support them. In fact I am part of an organization known as Sporting Conservation and we plan on hosting a sporting event shortly, all proceeds to be donated to conserving the Mau Forest and surrounding areas. If anyone is interested in knowing more please do not hesitate to contact me.

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