People, Wildlife and Livestock
in the Mara Ecosystem: the Mara Count 2002
The great savannas of eastern Africa -- cradle of humankind, home
to traditional nomadic pastoralists, and last refuge of some of
the most spectacular wildlife populations on earth -- are in trouble.
Notwithstanding 20 years of highly committed wildlife conservation,
much of the wildlife in several regions of Kenya and Uganda (and
to a lesser extent, Tanzania) has disappeared in just the last
20 years. The Mara part of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is of particular
concern because nearly 70% of the wildlife has been lost between
1976 and 1996. Pastoral peoples living in the Mara ecosystem have
less livestock per person than they did 20 years ago, and about
half survive today on an income of less than Ksh 70 ($1) per day
per person. If these trends continue, it is probable that the Mara
will support very few wildlife and poorer pastoral peoples 20 years
What is jeopardising work to conserve the Mara's priceless wildlife
populations and improve returns to pastoralists from wildlife is
a lack of a unified effort, by all concerned, to join together
to seek solutions. The Mara count is one such effort: a joint venture
by pastoral peoples, conservationists, private industry, land managers
and researchers to create an unparalled set of information to form
the foundation of future decisions to conserve wildlife and develop
pastoral peoples. This count owes its existence and success to
the Mara pastoral communities, the Mara reserve management and
the 22 vehicle counting teams, 3 aircraft counting teams, 20 organisations
and 84 individuals who completed the count.
How did we count?
- Counted and mapped 43 species of wildlife and livestock, land
use, bomas, vegetation, burns, tsetse, infrastructure,
- Covered 2,212 km2 in the Maasai Mara Reserve and
surrounding group ranches in Narok and Transmara Districts.
two dry season counts in 1999 and 2002.
What did we find?
- How many? There were 373 bomas, 2000 huts,
400,000 wildlife and livestock, 10 schools, 4 football pitches,
72 tourist lodges and camps, 7 veterinary dips, 10 cattle crushes,
and 69 shops, and 250 fresh animal carcasses in November, 2002.
population growth: There has been above
average population growth rates due to immigration and local
growth; 0.8 people/km2 in 1950 to 14.7 people/km2 in 2002.
use: Less than 1% of the land area was
farmed or fenced in 1999 or 2002, but they are expanding by 60-200%
- Paper and plastic: About 75% of the rubbish
was in the group ranches, with 25% in the reserve.
- Vehicles: Twice
as many vehicles in the reserve as the ranches.
grass available: There was more than
twice as much green grass biomass in the reserve than group ranches.
there was more than twice as much green grass biomass in 2002
- Cattle in the reserve: We counted
a quarter (1999) to a third (2002) of the ranch cattle herd within
- More wildlife in the reserve: About
60% of the wildlife species are more abundant in the reserve
ranches, probably because of competition with livestock for forage.
tourist want to see: Concentrations of
many species of wildlife (MSA’s) disappear when there are
too many settlements.
- Not enough livestock: Mara
Maasai have only 25-35% of the number of livestock needed to
support a pastoral
Other income alternatives include cultivation of crops, consumptive
use of wildlife, cultivation leases, remittances from family
members living in the cities, employment in lodges, revenues
manyattas', and tourism ‘dividends’ from wildlife
- Narok vs. Transmara: There was
no appreciable difference in the abundance of wildlife comparing
and Narok parts of the reserve.
- Private vs communal
ranching: There were fewer
wildlife on Ol Chorro Oirowua (private) than the group ranches
- Negative impacts of pastoral people on
species avoid people, making protection in parks critical for
- Positive impacts of pastoral people
on wildlife: Wildlife
seem to be both attracted to and repelled by pastoral people.
Some species prefer to be near people around water points and
perhaps because they feel ‘safer’ there, either because
predators are scarce or predators avoid people.
What does this new information mean?
- Pastoralists can enrich biodiversity. Our
data here imply that pastoral communities, contrary to traditional
can sometimes enhance biodiversity. These findings support other
evidence that integrated livestock-wildlife systems are more
than either livestock or wildlife systems alone, at least in
East Africa. Conservation policy that excludes low to moderate
of traditional pastoral use may inadvertently impoverish the
very lands it was instituted to protect.
- But many species
need to live without people. On the other hand, some
wildlife species are best conserved in places with no people
and no livestock. Any positive effects
on wildlife break down when the density of settlements passes
a certain point, which has been reached around the small villages
in the group ranches of the Mara. Thus, we expect that further
growth in the number of settlements in the Mara will result
negative consequences for wildlife.
- Land privatisation
may deplete wildlife. In
the last 3 years, communities outside the reserve have begun
the land and some families have split up in anticipation
of land parcel allocation. We anticipate that this has and
negative impacts on wildlife. If all the lands outside the
reserve are privatised, we estimate that 40% of the wildlife
will be lost,
or 45,000 animals, and perhaps all the elephants and most
- Pastoralism does not provide enough. The
recent losses of wildlife in the Mara are partially caused
by the fact
that it is increasing difficult for the Mara Maasai to
make ends meet through pastoralism. Pastoralists today are constantly
for other options to support their families, and some are
compatible with wildlife (tourism) and others are not (leasing
farming, high density settlement).
- What can be
done? Managing the number
and location of pastoral settlements in the Mara is key
wildlife populations. It is crucially important that
we make protected areas more effective, and, improve
to maintain lifestyles compatible with wildlife by increasing
returns from wildlife to pastoral peoples.
The full, 143 page report can be downloaded
as a .pdf formatted
document here (850Kb).