In order to support wildlife conservation in the Maasai Mara, the Mara Lion Project has been closely monitoring lions of the Ol Kinyei pride using a GPS collar to track their movements. The Ol Kinyei Conservancy comprises over 18,500 acres of protected habitat set aside for wildlife in the Mara eco-system.
The conservancy was first established in 2005 by Gamewatchers Safaris through the combining of over 170 separate parcels of land leased from local Maasai families. The families earn an income from the rents paid for their individually-owned plots and from having family members working in the Conservancy as rangers and as staff looking after tourist visitors staying in the small and exclusive Porini Mara Camp. The guests staying at the camp are able to enjoy wildlife viewing in both the Ol Kinyei Conservancy and the adjacent 50,000 acres Naboisho Conservancy.
The latest data published by the Mara Lion Project has demonstrated the importance of the conservancies in providing a safe haven for wild lions beyond the Maasai Mara itself.
Research into the movements of the pride was aided by a collar fitted to one of the pride’s females, Nenkume, in October 2013 which was programmed to automatically drop off after 2 years. Nenkume’s activity was measured by a sensor in the collar and data was recorded until November 2015 when the collar dropped-off as planned.
Niels Mogensen, Wildlife Biologist and the Chief Project Officer of the Mara Lion Project, has recently shared the results of this data – and his report clearly shows why the protected habitat in conservancies, such as Ol Kinyei, is so important to the future survival of the big cats in the wild.
In the two year period Nenkume spent 92% of her time inside the Ol Kinyei and Naboisho Conservancies, only on 34 occasions in two years did Nenkume spend her daytime resting periods outside of the conservancy boundary and within Ol Kinyei Conservancy she had three core areas where she spent 50% of her time. These core areas each were some distance from the conservancy boundaries – indicating that she knew where she was safe. A clear change in activity and behaviour was evident when Nenkume left the protected area of the conservancy – she became completely nocturnal, suggesting that she understood the risks of being seen by people outside of the conservancies.
This report acknowledges the importance of the conservancies adjacent to the Maasai Mara National Reserve as areas of protected habitat for wildlife and the fact that they have brought many benefits to the local community. It also highlights the importance of building good relationships with communities surrounding the conservancies, since inevitably the predators will occasionally venture onto the community land beyond the conservancies where the local people live and are rearing livestock. This is particularly relevant in light of the recent poisoning of some of the well-known lions of the Maasai Mara’s Marsh Pride, apparently in retaliation for attacks on Maasai livestock.
Gamewatchers Safaris CEO, Jake Grieves-Cook has commented: “The conservancies have shown how savannah grassland can be conserved and set aside as a safe haven for wildlife and thereby can generate an income and livelihoods for the landowners. Now we need a similar initiative to conserve pastureland for the Maasai livestock so that we do not end up with a situation where the only grazing left for cattle is in the areas meant to be for wildlife. There is also a need for changes to the form of livestock husbandry with a greater emphasis on smaller herds but higher quality livestock, and use of feedlots and hay as an alternative to nomadic grazing. The challenge is not simply one of preventing encroachment by humans into wildlife habitat, but is also about achieving a balance between the needs and aspirations of local people and the sustainable use of natural resources in a way that takes account of the needs of pastoralists and allows conservation of wildlife to succeed.”
Click here to see the full report.