Traditionally, the Maasai people are known for their nomadic pastoral way of living, moving their treasured herds of cattle from one place to the other in search of pasture.
The Mara has lately witnessed the highest concentration of cattle seen in the recent past. Herds of cattle from as far as Narok, Magadi, Loita, Ololulung’a areas etc. have moved to the Mara region over the past month in search of pasture, putting a lot of pressure on the animals that live outside the park and along the boundary, and in some areas even inside the park.
Due to law that prohibit cattle grazing in the park, these cattle are taken by the owners into the park at night to graze and leave in the morning. This brought them in direct contact with lions that would kill some cattle in the night when the herders cannot see or fight them off. Human, wildlife conflict has gone up due to this.
Since there is a stiff penalty if one is found killing wildlife, some people have resorted to bait poisoning to kill the predators, because this way, no one can immediately be held responsible and is difficult to prove.
This is detrimental to the future of the Mara, if some organisms are eliminated in these practices, there soon will be a missing link in the ecological cycle, which will then lead to other more serious natural imbalances. Wildlife conservationists and ecologists, together with the park authorities needs to tackle this before it is late.
There was a bait poisoning incident at Ololaimutiak area of Masai Mara game reserve on the 25th June 2009, targeted at lions in revenge to killing of domestic cows by lions the previous days. This irresponsible act resulted in the death of 35 vultures, 1 lion a few hyaenas and other unknown organisms. The culprit was arrested following a swift operation carried out through a combined effort by the NCC and KWS rangers.
When questioned, he agreed that he did it in revenge for losing some cows to lions recently. He said he used some Dawa(chemical) on a carcass of one of his cows killed by lions earlier. He said the chemical is normally used in parts of Tanzania to kill lions (I guess this is on Loliondo game controlled area, which is the area just across the international border from the east of the Mara) He lives along the border on the Kenyan side.
It is not clear however, what chemical was used and to what extend it is being used in the said area. This was the first massive deliberate poisoning I have known in the Mara.
The community around the Mara have lived in harmony with the animals for as long as their history. It appears now that human/wildlife conflict has taken a different dimension; suddenly some people are waking up and turning on the animals. The root cause of this conflict must be addressed by all the stake holders and the community at large. The people MUST be continually educated on the importance of wildlife.