Wildlife Habitat Protection

The survival of Maasai Mara, which hosts the largest biomass of mammals in the world, is severally challenged. Less than 50% of the greater Mara ecosystem is under governmental protection. As a result, vast areas that are crucial for the existence of this extraordinary biosphere depend upon on private and community initiatives such as conservancies for sustainability and conservation.

The concept underlying the creation of conservancies in the region was developed approximately 10 years ago. The establishment of the Mara North Conservancy (MNC) was the beginning of a completely new concept and business model. It is a not-for-profit institution, established in January 2009, that is a partnership between 13 tourism partners and over 800 Maasai landowners. The aim was to create a best practice, world-class conservancy with long-term commitments to the environment, wildlife, and local communities. The challenges have been, and remain, many but years of dedicated work has united partners in this critical conservation project.

One of the challenges influencing the success and sustainability in the Conservancy is the maintenance of the land for conservation purposes. This is usually obtained through long-term leases between landowners and MNC management. At certain points of time land owners wish to change the status of their land obligations/restrictions and thus do not re-sign their lease contract with MNC. The land owner may simply prefer to sell their plot of land and cash in their profit or they may decide to settle on their land instead of enabling its use for livestock grazing and/or wildlife habitat. This “transfer window” is a huge challenge and may in some cases jeopardize the existence of the Conservancy.

Plot 92 is located not far from the Mara River and the Karen Blixen Camp. It’s known by locals for its pristine habitat, preferred by many lions in the area as a “birth hotspot” and safe heaven.

A few weeks before the due date for pregnant lionesses, she isolates herself from her pride and prepares for her litter to be born. She usually looks for a location where she easily can hide her cubs in the thicket, well protected against buffalos, other lions, hyenas, etc.

Plot 92 has for generations been exactly this exclusive hideout for female lions and thus has very important status for conservation of the land and protection of the lions in this area.

The legal status of the land in the area of MNC is agriculture, and thus there is no authorization available for the protection of wildlife habitats or natural resources that would place restrictions on use of the land. As for Plot 92, international enterprises have already shown interest, with the purpose to develop a hotel resort. Only in very rare cases are such developments eco-friendly and in no situations would the land retain its vital value and importance as a lion birth location.

It is crucial, therefore, for the continuous existence of the Maasai Mara ecosystem that Plot 92 is secured for conservation purposes. It is for this reason that KBCT, through local engagement, has an opportunity to secure the plot of land. At present, we have obtained a loan for the prospective purchase of Plot 92 so that it can exist in perpetuity as undeveloped land and a critically important habitat for lions and other wildlife. We unfortunately expect that in the future there will be overwhelming need to attempt to purchase additional tracts of land that are put up for sale with the risk of loss of vital wildlife habitat.