Numbers of wildlife in Kenya’s famous Mara region have declined by two-thirds or more over last 33 years

Landscapes from the Mara

Landscape taken on safari in the Masai Mara, Kenya, July 2009 (photo credit: jschinker‘s Flickr photostream). ‘Sadly, wildlife are apparently being monitored into extinction in the Mara. Without urgent, decisive and resolute actions, more local extinctions may yet occur and the spectacular migration for which the Mara is world famous may continue to dwindle’—Joseph Ogutu.

Some devastating news has just been published in a leading scientific journal about wildlife declines in Kenya.

Scientists have found that wildlife populations in Kenya’s famous Mara region declined progressively after 1977, with few exceptions. Populations of almost all wildlife species have declined to a third or less of their former abundance both in the protected Masai Mara National Reserve and in the adjoining pastoral ranches.

Human influences appeared to be the fundamental cause. Besides reinforced antipoaching patrols, the expansion of cultivation, settlements and fences and livestock stocking levels on the pastoral ranches need to be regulated to avoid further declines in the wildlife resource.

Populations of many wild ungulate species in Africa are in decline largely because of land-use changes and other human activities.

The four authors of this paper, published online last week in the Journal of Zoology (20 May 2011) include lead author Joseph Ogutu, formerly of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and now at the University of Hohenheim, and last author Mohamed Said, of ILRI.

Read a short brief providing background to this new item.

Read the abstract of the paper: Continuing wildlife population declines and range contraction in the Mara region of Kenya during 1977–2009

For more information, please contact:
Joseph Ogutu in Germany at jogutu2007 [at]
Mohamed Said at ILRI Nairobi at m.said [at]
Jan de Leeuw, ILRI team leader, at ILRI Nairobi at j.leeuw [at]

4 thoughts on “Numbers of wildlife in Kenya’s famous Mara region have declined by two-thirds or more over last 33 years

  1. Brilliant and very important paper on a sad subject very dear to my heart and long time professional interests since the early 1970’s till now.

    It is increasingly clear that when human populations were much smaller and when pastoral rangelands were still large scale without group and individual subdivisions, moderate numbers of livestock could co-exist happily with moderate numbers of wild herbivores.

    But for more than 3 decades livestock per capital numbers have been too low to provide a viable traditional diet and so pastoral people try to keep more cattle and small stock to make up the difference with cash sales and more and more pressure is placed on shared rangelands with wild herbivores which are now being displaced and even eliminated.

    If wildlife in places like the Mara is to survive we will need policies and practices which protect their habitats from destructive livestock invasions. The problem is clarified by this fine paper which documents this problem in such a rigorous and clear eyed way. It is impressive too for the courage of it’s conclusions, Oguto, Said and Jan de Leewuw deserve our highest praise and commendation – thanks. MR

  2. One must aslo question the fact that it has been allowed to attain these proportions in the first place. It is virtually irreversible – like trying to stop a driverless car speeding downhill. The intellectual will must be there, but corruption and not ignorance will always be an increasing and dominant cause of the decline.

  3. This study just gave exactly what is a reality as i come next to the game reserve. I have two suggestion for mitigating the problem if at all somebody will be careful to save the mara and the surroundings: 1) There is need to financially support conservation projects in areas adjacent to the mara, including the forest as well as promoting activities that generate benefits to the communities for the purpose of changing their attitude towards the natural resources. 2)Facilitate trainings on alternative livelihoods, including value addition to livestock, entrepreneurship or small scale businesses for women and youths. This is because, crop farming is winning which is not sustainable, not friendly to the environment and will detariorate the culture of the maasai. It is time to act because the facts ore on the table.

  4. Gee; I wonder if that has anything to do with Kenya’s ban on hunting in 1977?

    Wildlife populations have exploded throughout southern Africa during the same time period.

    The reason is “sustainable-use” – and when it comes to wildlife, sustainable-use means hunting.

    This article is old news, and just proves (once again) that Kenya made a huge mistake when it banned hunting.

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