April 29, 2008

Kenyan Park Reserve Faces Rapid Loss of Tourism, Funding

Tourists to Kenya's Masai Mara game reserve have been reluctant to visit since last year's violence in the area, resulting in an economic slump in the 510 sq km area known as the Mara Triangle.

The non-profit Mara Conservancy was established in January 2001, and by May 2001, began managing the Mara Triangle on behalf of the County Council of Trans Mara.

After violence over last year's election, tourists have strayed from the area, which is limiting resources to pay pastoralists for cattle killed by lions or leopards in the region.

William Deed, from the Mara Conservancy, said that it was facing a shortfall of $50,000, due to the lack of tourism.

The group relies on collections made through park entrance fees paid by tourists.

The Mara Conservancy fears that a lack of funding for compensation could result in the killing of cats by local citizens who intend to protect their livestock.

Since the group was founded in 2001, the lion population of the region has doubled to 80.

"We have now had several close calls with locals hunting lions and leopards in return for the cattle that have been killed by these predators," said Mr Deed.

"Previously, the cattle compensation scheme we had in place would help placate such situations, however with no funding to pay for such a scheme the local communities are no longer seeing the benefits of living so closely with the wildlife."

"It may be only a matter of time until rangers won't be so lucky in stopping cattle owners from taking their own measures to protect cattle," he added.

The Mara Conservancy is also responsible for managing the infrastructure of the Mara Triangle.

Another problem in the area is the lack of electricity during 11 hours of every 24, causing communication failures between rangers and patrol stations.

Lack of funding has also resulted in a force to end night patrols.

Last month, the rangers have caught five poachers, including three men who killed a hippo for its meat.

Until tourism begins to increase in the area, Mr. Deed said the organization would be collecting donations from individuals across the world.


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Mara Conservancy