There has been a general population increase of large mammal species over the last three decades.
This is according to the 2021 census of large mammals in the Maasai Mara ecosystem that revealed that the landscape still hosts a wide diversity of wildlife.
The report which was published in May 2022 by the Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) with the support of WWF-Kenya noted that 83.7 per cent of the wildlife lives outside of protected areas in community and private owned lands while only 16.2 per cent live in the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
A total of 17 wildlife species were recorded during the census which was undertaken in May 2021 and covered 12,500 square kilometers.
According to the report which was released in Narok County, the most abundant species were the wildebeest which were 32,281, the common zebras (32,358), buffalos (11,604), Impalas (10,610), Thomson gazelles (8,278), Topi (6,923), Grants gazelles (3,892), elephants (2,595), giraffes (2,109) and the elands (1,280).
Other rare animals which were opportunistically sighted include the rhinos, lesser kudu, wild dogs, klipspringer, cheetah and lions but their numbers were not reported as the aerial census is not the right method to count them.
Speaking on the report, Samson Lenjir, National Elephant Programme Coordinator, WWF-Kenya said that animal census and data sharing are important for scientific research and monitoring the trends to help make policies for wildlife management.
“It is also important to engage communities throughout the process for them to understand and appreciate how the growth of wildlife numbers can translate to prosperity and improvement of their livelihoods. Conservation as a land use must be meaningful and beneficial to people for it to be sustainable,” he averred.
Meanwhile, the census also revealed that different environmentally destructive activities were observed. These include charcoal burning, tree felling and burned areas.
In addition, the report indicates that human footprints such as settlements, livestock, and infrastructural development continue to affect wildlife habitats throughout the Mara ecosystem negatively. The major drivers of habitat loss are land division, improved infrastructure and changes in land use.
Further, it was noted that various human activities have gravely affected habitat connectivity between the conservancies and to a more considerable extent to the critical areas such as Mosiro and Loita Forest.
“The wildlife animal corridors between Naboisho and Siana, Olkinyei and Olarro have disappeared and are currently made worse by new permanent homes along the new tarmacked Narok-Sekenani road,” read the report in part.
On human-wildlife conflict, Captain Robert Obrien, KWS Senior Assistant Director, Community Relations and Outreach Division said that the Ministry of Wildlife, Tourism and Heritage is set to launch the National Human-Wildlife Coexistence Strategy that will address the issues of compensation, and provide elaborate mitigation strategies for dealing with human-wildlife co-existence.
“We’re working with the county wardens to specifically tackle the issue of wildlife corridors in their respective county spatial plans. When this is addressed, this issue will be reduced. More importantly, partners in all wildlife ecosystems must work together in sharing research information for the better management of wildlife and their habitats,” he said.
Based on the results of the aerial census, WRTI and the KWS recommended that transboundary wildlife monitoring and census between Kenya and Tanzania be harmonised to get a more accurate status of wildlife in the entire ecosystem.
In addition, it was recommended that key habitat linkages and migratory pathways be secured and maintained by strengthening the institutional framework involvement.
The stakeholders’ dissemination meeting was attended by the Narok County Government, Kenya Wildlife Service, Wildlife Research and Training Institute, Kenya Wildlife Trust, and Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association.