The BBC’s 2 June 2011 story about a “crash” in wildlife numbers in the Maasai Mara region has been widely picked up, in most cases without further comment.
I don’t think we should be complacent, but I’m not getting a sense of impending disaster from visits to the Mara and feedback from other travellers, conservationists and operators on the ground. It’s true the numbers went down hugely in the 1970s and early 80s, but although there are challenges all round – and the Narok council-run Maasai Mara National Reserve has lots of problems with human incursions – in some respects, the story now seems to be increasingly positive, as the private and community-run conservancies start to provide genuine, open sanctuaries for huge numbers of wildlife. A new conservancy, Naboisho, is just opening up now, as this year’s migration starts.
Anyway, I’ve had a look into the data behind the “wildlife crash” story on the Rough Guide to Kenya blog. What particularly surprises me is how patchy the numbers are. I know they’re only estimates, but how can the population of elephants be estimated at 125 one month and more than 2000 the next month? And elephants are presumably a bit easier to count than many species. Are they hiding or moving? It makes me wonder how accurate any of these aerial surveys are. I’d be interested in people’s views.