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Masai Mara, Kenya

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Masai Mara, Kenya

Another story:

For a short while I worked in the Masai Mara in Kenya, it is a beautiful area, so different from the woodland savannah I was used to in Southern Africa, as it is generally large open grasslands with most of the trees concentrated along the rivers and watercourses and is bordered on two sides by escarpment.

Another thing different about the Mara was that it is not fenced and a number of Masaai villages are dotted along the edge of the reserve. It wasn’t unusual to be watching animals just outside the reserve while not far away a Masaai herdsman would pass by driving his cattle, sheep and goats along. Sadly, livestock farmers such as the Maasai and predators do not make good neighbours and inevitably it was the predators who suffered.

The first animals I saw when I climbed off the plane at a remote airstrip on my arrival in the Mara was a pride of 12 lions. Four months later, when I left the Mara for the last time there were only six surviving members of the pride.

Seeing a dead lion is not a pleasant experience, particularly if you have come to love and respect these magnificent creatures. In the Mara I saw two, one lioness who was shot inside a Maasai village, caught raiding the goat pen. The second was a lactating lioness who was mysteriously speared and died right on the boundary of the reserve not more that 100 yards from her four cubs.

We found the cubs, but there was little we could do for them. The remaining members of the pride would come and go seemingly trying to help them, but none of them could feed them. For two days saw and heard the distressed and starving cubs then on the third day they were gone along with the rest of the pride. A few days later we relocated the pride, the cubs were not amongst them!

Some of the Maasai I spoke to resented the presence of the game reserve, access to a vast grazing area for their livestock was denied; the predators that lived there would attack and kill their livestock; and the annual wildebeest migration would bring disease to their own animals. I doubt whether this particular conflict between man and wildlife would ever end and as usual it would always be the wild animals that would suffer.