Wildlife on a decline in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve

April 22nd, 2009 - 4:27 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, April 22 (ANI): A new study has shown widespread and substantial declines in wildlife in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve in only 15 years.

The study was analyzed by researchers at the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and led and funded by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

It is based on rigorous, monthly monitoring between 1989 and 2003 of seven “ungulate,” or hoofed, species in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, which covers some 1500 square kilometers in southwestern Kenya.

Scientists found that a total of six species-giraffes, hartebeest, impala, warthogs, topis and waterbuck- have “decreased substantially” in only 15 years as they compete for survival with a growing concentration of human settlements in the region.

Researchers found that the growing human population has diminished the wild animal population by usurping wildlife grazing territory for crop and livestock production to support their families.

The study provides the most detailed evidence to date on declines in the ungulate populations in the Mara and how this phenomenon is linked to the rapid expansion of human populations near the boundaries of the reserve.

For example, an analysis of the monthly sample counts indicates that the losses were as high as 95 percent for giraffes, 80 percent for warthogs, 76 percent for hartebeest, and 67 percent for impala.

According to researchers, the declines they documented are supported by previous studies that have found dramatic drops in the reserve of once abundant wildebeest, gazelles and zebras.

“The situation we documented paints a bleak picture and requires urgent and decisive action if we want to save this treasure from disaster,” said Joseph Ogutu, the lead author of the study and a statistical ecologist at ILRI.

“Our study offers the best evidence to date that wildlife losses in the reserve are widespread and substantial, and that these trends are likely linked to the steady increase in human settlements on lands adjacent to the reserve,” he added. (ANI)

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