Poaching and human wildlife conflict has declined at the world’s famous Maasai Mara game reserve due to joint surveillance patrols between Kenya and Tanzania, a conservationist has said.
According to the chief executive officer of Mara Conservancy Brian Heath, tourists have increased as a result of the move. The organisation is a private company that manages the Mara Triangle, which is the North Western part of the reserve on behalf of Trans Mara County Council.
In an interview with the Nation, Mr Heath said poaching activities and human wildlife conflict had negatively impacted on tourism as tourists associated the vices with insecurity.
“If animals can be killed then tourists also fear that their life can be in danger. The joint security operations between Kenyan and Tanzanian authorities have addressed poaching cases and the results are evident with the clean bill we receive from tourists,” said Mr Heath.
He said poachers, who used to traverse the Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti, have found it difficult to commit a crime in one country and seek refuge in the other due to the ties between security personnel from the two countries.
Mr Heath said human wildlife conflicts along the Mara ecosystem had reduced over the years due to the increased patrols conducted by anti-poaching unit security personnel and sensitisation campaigns on the need for communities neighbouring the parks to peacefully co-exist with the wild animals.
“The communities have learnt to peacefully co-exist with the wild animals. Initially animals that strayed out of the park never used to return alive,” said Mr Heath.
He, however, said efforts have been made to confine the wild animals within the game reserve to minimise cases of the animals wrecking havoc within the neighbourhood.
Mr Heath said the Mara Triangle is receiving an average of 400 tourists daily compared to an average of 200 during the off peak seasons. He expressed optimism that they will surpass their targets by the end of this peak season.
“We are at 90 per cent with the tourists and more are still coming. We have a lot to offer and the serene environment and guaranteed security have put us on the world map,” said Mr Heath.
The peak season runs from July to October and is boosted by the spectacular annual migration of wildebeest from Tanzania’s Serengeti national park, as they cross the crocodile infested Mara River in search of pasture and water.
Some tourists, he admitted, were hesitant to visit the country during the referendum campaigns because they were uncertain about the post-referendum effects.
“Memories of the 2007 post election violence was probably still lingering in the minds of some tourists. They didn’t want to be away from their homes before being sure of their safety.”