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KWS and the Mara

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KWS and the Mara

Post  Safariman on Fri Aug 30, 2013 11:28 am

I was going to post this a couple of weeks ago but never got round to it. I read an article on FB indicating that KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) was considering trying to take over the management and running of the Masai Mara National Reserve. This was quickly refuted by KWS who said they were only interested in good governance for the Mara but not running it. This raises one or two interesting points particularly as KWS has come in for quite a lot of criticism on this forum.
At the moment the Masai Mara National Reserve is under the control of Narok County Council under whose jurisdiction the Reserve comes and they are responsible for the running, upkeep, anti-poaching etc. not KWS.
The game parks and reserves of Kenya have an unusual set-up in that the National Parks come under the government run KWS but the majority of the National Reserves of which the Mara is one, come under the control of the local council in whose area they are situated. It has always seemed odd to me that the Masai Mara which is the jewel in the crown of Kenyan wildlife has never been designated a National Park.
Those of you who have been to the Mara will know it is split into several sections consisting of the main reserve, the Mara Triangle on the Serengeti side of the Mara River and then several private conservancies adjoining the main reserve. The Triangle like the Reserve comes under the control of the local council, in this case the Trans-Mara council, but they have arranged for the management of this area to be undertaking by the separate Mara Conservancy body. The private conservancies are self managed by the various ownership bodies.
The park fees which everybody visiting the National Reserve has to pay now amount to approx. $100 per day per tourist who stays within the Reserve boundaries and these go to Narok County Council and not KWS. Therefore in theory at least it is Narok County Council that is responsible for the maintenance of the roads (if you can call then that) anti-poaching, animal management and general maintenance. Unfortunately over the years they have failed very badly in their duty, with the roads a disgrace particularly after the rains and new roads and tracks springing up without any control and litter becoming a constant problem especially during the migration when visitor numbers are very high and off-road driving also a continuing problem. It would seem that Narok are very happy to take the money but do not want to reinvest any of it back into the Mara.
By contrast Meru where I have visited several time is a National Park and therefore under the control of KWS, is very well maintained with an excellent road system well signposted for ease of getting around, litter is kept under control, there are designated camp and picnic sites and although there are problems with poaching due to its proximity to Somalia it is kept pretty much under control. All this with very little money coming in from park fees as there is only one one camp of about 20 beds within the park boundaries compared with the Mara which has 1000+ beds. The camp I stay in when I visit Meru (Offbeat Safaris) is situated in the adjacent Bisanadi National Reserve and although all the game drives take place in Meru the park fees go to Isiolo County Council and not KWS. Incidentally Bisanadi does not have any usable roads within the reserve except the access to Offbeats Camp!!
One can only hope that even if the story is only rumours that perhaps Narok will take notice and start doing something to improve the Mara before it's too late. When I stay in the adjacent privately owned Mara North Conservancy I spend 90% of my time within the Conservancy and only visit the main reserve to go to to the Mussiara Marsh in the hope of catching up with the Marsh Pride, otherwise I avoid it!!
It will be interesting to see what if anything transpires.


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Re: KWS and the Mara

Post  Laikipia on Fri Aug 30, 2013 7:11 pm

Interesting Safariman, thanks for letting us know. My problem with the Mara is how spoilt it is becoming with more and more camps and frankly far too many vehicles. I love the Mara and in particular the Musiara Marsh but we have not visited for several years now as we prefer to visit the north. We have visited Naboisho conservancy which is nearby and is quieter and just as beautiful with an abundance of wildlife.

Narok Council has a lot to answer for but you are right the Mara should be designated a NP perhaps.


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