Reversing the disintegration of the Mara Ecosystem: A feasibility study

Joseph O. Ogutu, Shem C. Kifugo, Jully Senteu, Cindy Obath, Irene Amoke, Han Olff


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The One Mara Research Hub (OMRH) in May2020 received a grant of EUR 46,000 from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) through the Base Camp Explorer Foundation- Kenya to carryout a 6-month feasibility study of the Greater Mara Ecosystem. The aim of this study was to prioritize areas in the Mara where additional conservation areas should be established by identifying the ecologically valuable areas and mapping historical and current constraints in protecting these areas. A social survey to collect firsthand information on the views of the local communities on the impact of and need for further conservation measures was also conducted. This report summarizes, synthesizes and interprets the project’s key findings and makes several first recommendations pertinent to conservation and human socio-economic development in the Mara. It should be noted that this report was a relatively short, limited study aimed at identifying the feasibility for a much more extensive project of this type. For this study we first mapped the two migratory systems characterizing the Mara ecosystem. We then analyzed the aerial surveys of wildlife and livestock performed by the Kenyan Directorate of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS) from 1977 until 2018. In this period, 75 aerial surveys were conducted where all herbivores larger than Thomson’s gazelle and sheep and goats were counted in a landscape-wide 5 x 5 km grid. The results were integrated to whole-ecosystem population estimates using Jolly statistics and trends of different species over the study period calculated. Based on these data, we calculated hotspots of migrant and resident herbivores for the 1970s, as the number of species that were found in a 5 x 5 km grid cell at their 75%percentile and higher abundance (so, 75%of all grid cells for that species had a lower abundance). This yielded maps of the areas of the highest ecological importance in this ecosystem. Where the hotspots occur outside the current protected areas, such areas are candidates for new conservation measures, such as the establishment of new conservancies. We then determined the main current threats and limitations to such conservation measures, by mapping the distribution of fences from high-resolution satellite imagery, constructing a 5 x 5km resolution human population density map,and spatially downscaling the 2019 national population census of Kenya data. Using the DRSRS data, we also mapped the changes in the abundance and spatial distribution of livestock (cattle, sheep, and goats) and resulting competitive pressure as potential explanatory variables for wildlife trends and distributions. To get a better understanding of the views of the local communities on natural resource trends, conservation, and conservancies we interviewed 338 people with a rural livelihood (2/3rd men, 1/3rd women, all Masai). These household surveys were conducted to assess the attitudes of the Mara residents towards conservation, perception of changes,livelihoods, ranking of potential conservation-compatible development investments and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Greater Mara Ecosystem. We asked 585 questions to each respondent regarding all these different aspects of their views and livelihood, and statistically summarized their responses. In addition, we reviewed peer-reviewed journal articles, books, and gray literature, including personal memoirs, government reports, project reports and other materials,to reconstruct the recent conservation history of the Mara. The specific literature reviewed focused on wildlife abundance and distribution and land use changes in the past century with emphasis on the changes occurring within the recent decades. The review also evaluated the changes in human and livestock population, settlements, rainfall and temperature patterns, land tenure, land fragmentation through fencing and socio-cultural and political practices. The review also considered patterns of legal and illegal exploitation of wildlife, wildlife policies, pieces of legislation, institutions, governance, and markets. Relevant datasets were amalgamated and analyzed using various off-the-shelf software packages, such as ArcGIS Online, and bespoke scripts written in different programming languages. The results are summarized as distribution maps, temporal trends, scenarios for new conservancies, constraints to, and approximate cost of, establishing each new conservancy.
Originele taal-2English
Opdrachtgevend orgaanNorwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD)
Aantal pagina's57
StatusPublished - feb.-2020


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