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Cattle in Amboseli National Park
I know that finding cattle in the National Park has upset some of you. I want to discuss this phenomenon both in the present day and with some historical perspective. Several photos of cattle were posted on the Kenyans for Wildlife Facebook page. Those photos represent three different situations:
Let’s look at Nos. 2 & 3 with a little historical perspective. Amboseli was declared a national park in 1974. Previous to that time a much larger area had been a national reserve with human activity allowed. The Amboseli permanent swamps in the center of the new Park were a vital part of the Maasai range. However, the Maasai agreed to leave the Park in return for water sources in the form of a pipeline and boreholes being created outside. These promises have never been adequately fulfilled. The pipeline is often broken and it is too narrow to deliver enough water; the boreholes are more often than not broken down. For these reasons KWS allows cattle to drink in the Park.
The cattle should definitely not be grazing in the Park, but let’s look at how the wildlife uses the Amboseli ecosystem. The elephants, wildebeests, giraffes and zebras and other species don’t stay in the small National Park of 392 sq. kms; they roam over an area of 8000 sq. kms. When they are outside the Park they are on Maasai group ranches and on privately owned land. The Maasai are remarkably tolerant of these wild animals; they have been living together for at least 500 years. Where there are Maasai pastoralists there is abundant wildlife; where there is agriculture no wildlife is tolerated.
There are presently about 1250 elephants in the Amboseli ecosystem. At any one time there are only about 300-400 in the Park itself; the other 800-900 are outside on the Maasai group ranches. Without these areas outside the Park the elephants and other wildlife could not survive.
The fact that the Maasai are hosting so many wild animals on their land is not a justification for them to graze their cattle in the Park, but we have to look at ways to change this situation not simply condemn KWS and the Maasai. There is no future for Amboseli unless the Maasai benefit in much greater ways than they are now from sharing their land with wildlife and for protecting it for hundreds of years. Think about where the best wildlife areas are in this country. I think we need to be a bit more understanding of human-wildlife relationships and look for solutions that work for both wildlife and people.