MAASAI MARA, September 12 – Conservationists and other tourism stakeholders have formulated a management plan to conserve the Maasai Mara game reserve.
Mara Conservancy Director, Brian Heath told Capital News that the plan will coordinate expansion and management structures at the park to avoid over exploitation of resources as well as over development.
“We are now at a stage where we have the draft plan which has been previewed by the ministries of tourism, lands, local government and once their comments have been included, the plan will go to the county councils for their approval,” he explained.
The final draft will then be discussed by the tourism industry players.
Heath said the formulation of the plan has taken over a year, taking views from the Narok and Transmara County Councils, scientists, park managers as well as the local communities.
The world famous game reserve is under the management of the Narok and Transmara County Councils.
A major highlight of the proposal is creation of different zones in the park. “One of them is the ‘River Zone’, covering a one and a half kilometre strip on either side of the Mara River. This is going to have a number of restrictions, including the development of camps and lodges,” he said, explaining that it was in recognition of the rivers important ecological role.
“The rest of the Mara will be divided into high use and low use ends. The ‘high use zone’ will be open to all vehicles and will be restricted to on road and on track driving only while the low use zone will be open to four wheel vehicles only.”
Health said a premium would be charged on those willing to drive off-road. He however raised concern over unplanned development both inside and outside the park.
“Every tourist who comes on a wildlife safari to Kenya wants to come to the Maasai Mara and as a result there has been a lot of tourism development both inside and outside the park.”
He also stated that some of the threats the park faced relate to environmental degradation and damage caused by the number of people who visit the reserve.
Heath at the same time raised concern over issuance of leases by the Narok County Council to private developers.
The leases have been issued to private individuals to undertake expansion inside the park.
“Both county councils are very aware of the threat posed by over exploitation of the resource and over development by tourism facilities,” he asserted.