Arson halts wildebeest migration

Sunday July 22 2012

Part of a herd of some 1.5 million wildebeests crosses the Mara River in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve during an annual migration in August, 2006. Tanzanians living around the Serengeti Game Reserve allegedly  set the area on fire to block the wildebeest migration. Photo/FILE

Part of a herd of some 1.5 million wildebeests crosses the Mara River in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve during an annual migration in August, 2006. Tanzanians living around the Serengeti Game Reserve allegedly set the area on fire to block the wildebeest migration. Photo/FILE 

By NATION CORRESPONDENT

A diplomatic row is simmering after Tanzanians living around the Serengeti Game Reserve allegedly set the area on fire to block the wildebeest migration.

The infernos that have lasted for two weeks have delayed hundreds of wildebeest from Serengeti plains gathered on the Mara River ready to cross into Kenya.

Hundred of acres of the reserve in Northern Tanzania along the migratory routes are still on fire and have pushed back wildlife.

The spectacular Mara River wildebeest crossing is expected to kick off the annual tourism peak season in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

Hold talks

Narok County Council, the custodians of the reserve, have appealed to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Tourism to hold talks with respective ministries in Tanzania to solve the standoff.

The reserve’s chief warden, Mr Michael Ole Koikai, said tourists who started arriving last week have pitched camp along the banks of the river to watch the migration which has been delayed by the fires.

Mr Koikai said the animals attempted to cross twice but could not access the river.

“Many of these tourists are forced to pay more than they had planned because of this delay, since they don’t want to leave before experiencing the spectacular 7th wonder of the world,” said Mr Koikai.

Stakeholders, who are already afraid of losing revenue, have joined the call asking the government to intervene.