The Mara Count, 2002. The count that counts.



People, Wildlife and Livestock in the Mara Ecosystem: the Mara Count 2002


Why count?
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 from now.

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?

  1. Counted and mapped 43 species of wildlife and livestock, land use, bomas, vegetation, burns, tsetse, infrastructure, and vehicles.
  2. Covered 2,212 km2 in the Maasai Mara Reserve and surrounding group ranches in Narok and Transmara Districts.
  3. Completed two dry season counts in 1999 and 2002.

What did we find?

  1. How many? There were 373 bomas, 2000 huts, 400,000 wildlife and livestock, 10 schools, 4 football pitches, 13 airstrips, 72 tourist lodges and camps, 7 veterinary dips, 10 cattle crushes, and 69 shops, and 250 fresh animal carcasses in November, 2002.
  2. Human 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.
  3. Land use: Less than 1% of the land area was farmed or fenced in 1999 or 2002, but they are expanding by 60-200% per year.
  4. Paper and plastic: About 75% of the rubbish was in the group ranches, with 25% in the reserve.
  5. Vehicles: Twice as many vehicles in the reserve as the ranches.
  6. Green grass available: There was more than twice as much green grass biomass in the reserve than group ranches. Also, there was more than twice as much green grass biomass in 2002 than 1999.
  7. Cattle in the reserve: We counted a quarter (1999) to a third (2002) of the ranch cattle herd within the reserve.
  8. More wildlife in the reserve: About 60% of the wildlife species are more abundant in the reserve than the group ranches, probably because of competition with livestock for forage.
  9. What tourist want to see: Concentrations of many species of wildlife (MSA’s) disappear when there are too many settlements.
  10. Not enough livestock: Mara Maasai have only 25-35% of the number of livestock needed to support a pastoral lifestyle. 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 from 'cultural manyattas', and tourism ‘dividends’ from wildlife associations.
  11. Narok vs. Transmara: There was no appreciable difference in the abundance of wildlife comparing between the Transmara and Narok parts of the reserve.
  12. Private vs communal ranching: There were fewer wildlife on Ol Chorro Oirowua (private) than the group ranches (communal).
  13. Negative impacts of pastoral people on wildlife: Some species avoid people, making protection in parks critical for their survival.
  14. 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 bomas, perhaps because they feel ‘safer’ there, either because predators are scarce or predators avoid people.

What does this new information mean?

  1. Pastoralists can enrich biodiversity. Our data here imply that pastoral communities, contrary to traditional views, can sometimes enhance biodiversity. These findings support other evidence that integrated livestock-wildlife systems are more productive than either livestock or wildlife systems alone, at least in East Africa. Conservation policy that excludes low to moderate levels of traditional pastoral use may inadvertently impoverish the very lands it was instituted to protect.
  2. 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 of pastoralism 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 in further negative consequences for wildlife.
  3. Land privatisation may deplete wildlife. In the last 3 years, communities outside the reserve have begun to privatise the land and some families have split up in anticipation of land parcel allocation. We anticipate that this has and will have strong 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 carnivores.
  4. 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 searching for other options to support their families, and some are compatible with wildlife (tourism) and others are not (leasing land for wheat farming, high density settlement).
  5. What can be done? Managing the number and location of pastoral settlements in the Mara is key to protecting the remaining wildlife populations. It is crucially important that we make protected areas more effective, and, improve incentives for pastoral communities 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).


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Maps, graphics and unpublished reports from this website may be reproduced for non-commercial use provided that such reproduction shall acknowledge the Mara count 2002 with this citation:
"Reid, R.S., Rainy, M., Ogutu, J., Kruska, R.L., McCartney, M., Nyabenge, M., Kimani, K., Kshatriya, M., Worden, J., Ng'ang'a, L., Owuor, J., Kinoti, J., Njuguna, E., Wilson, C.J., and Lamprey, R. (2003). People, Wildlife and Livestock in the Mara Ecosystem: the Mara Count 2002. Report, Mara Count 2002, International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya."
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